My friend, Mark Wilson, is pastor of a church in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. He tells a wonderful story in his new book, Purple Fish. It seems the Marketplace Grocery conducted a contest a few years ago, in which they announced a drawing for a free year’s supply of groceries.

Mark’s wife, Cathy, submitted her name and decided to pray to win. Mark rolled his eyes when she did that. He said it reminded him of people who pray to win the lottery. So when she started praying to win the grocery lotto, he made a joke of it.

The drawing occurred on Sunday. At the breakfast table before church, Cathy said grace: “Dear Lord, I just want to remind you that today’s the grocery drawing. We sure could use them, and if it’s your will, it would be wonderful if we won.”

As soon as she said “Amen,” Mark took advantage of this teaching moment and said: “Now, Honey, that’s not the way we’re supposed to pray. It’s not proper to ask God for free stuff like that. God doesn’t work that way – and even if he did, what would that teach our kids? That you can get something for nothing!”

“I disagree,” Cathy responded. “First, I’m not demanding that God do this. I’m just asking, and if he says no, I’m fine with that. And second, if we happen to win, it would teach our children that God loves us and that he hears and answers our prayers.”

The kids all agreed with Cathy: “Yeah, Dad! You should listen to Mom.”

He left for church in a huff.

During the worship service, while Mark was giving announcements, the phone rang in the church office. An usher answered it and bounded up the middle aisle, waving a little piece of paper. It was a note saying, “Marketplace Grocery just called. Your family won the groceries!”

When they went to pick up the check, five-year-old Luke told the newspaper photographer: “Mom prayed that we would win, but Dad didn’t believe it could happen.”

I can’t promise if you pray that you will win a year’s worth of groceries, but I have another friend who says, “It’s amazing how many coincidences happen when people pray.”

Win or lose, Jesus taught that we “should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1 NIV).