Sri Ramakrishna would often extol the power of devotion and how the impossible is made possible through that power. To illustrate this idea he used to narrate a parable.
Once there was an Annaprasana (a Hindu religious ceremony in connection with the offering of cooked rice to a baby) in a Guru’s house. His disciples volunteered to supply different articles of food according to their capacities. Amongst the disciples was a very poor widow whose only possession was a cow. She milked it and brought the Guru a jar of milk. The teacher had imagined that she would take care of all the requirements of milk and curd for the festival. Annoyed at her offering, he threw the milk away and told her to go and drown herself. The widow accepted this as his command and went to the river to drown herself. But, God was pleased with her unfailing devotion to her Guru and appeared before her and gave her a pot of curd. He told her that she would never be able to empty it. However much she would try to pour out, the pot would always be full of curd. The Guru was speechless with amazement when the pot was presented to him. After hearing from the widow the story of the pot, he went to the river and told her, “I shall drown myself if you cannot show God to me”. Since he was not blessed with sincere devotion like the widow, he could not see God. However, the widow intervened and pleaded with God saying, “If my teacher gives up his body because you have not revealed yourself to him, then I too shall die.” Because of her devotion, God appeared before the Guru.
Sri Ramakrishna would say that one should practice spiritual disciplines with deep longing and intense devotion if one is to succeed in spiritual life.