Wino was dead. Gone. I was completely unable to do anything about it. He had a seizure and fell at some awful time in the A.M. and something was terribly wrong with him. I listened to him cry most of the night while my parents tried to take care of him. I was only eight, so I cried too. We took my Australian shepherd-blue heeler-mut whom I had known and loved since birth to the vet who promptly euthanized him. I was heart-broken.

A couple of days later, my family ended up at the mall. One of my favorite features to the place that I’d learn to hate really quickly was a large fountain that had been installed downstairs. It had a couple of kids flailing as they jumped from a tire swing. Most people whose years haven’t broken from the single digits were fascinated by this place. The best part about it was making wishes while tossing change into the pool below. Any of my desires were worth more than a couple of coins.

The likelihood of a wish coming true depended on several factors. The most important was how much money was sacrificed to the fountain. Dreams sank with pennies. Whatever or whoever it was that made this crap come true could care less about copper. Nickels and dimes increased the odds, but if any person ever wanted something desperately, they’d throw quarters in. Other important pieces involved not telling people what you wished for and even the kind of request made.

That day, I begged my mom for a quarter. She was willing to part with several pennies, but getting a whole twenty-five cents out of her took some effort. She didn’t know the rules. She didn’t understand that I needed to make an offering to the fountain so I could ask for my dog back. I think she knew that there was a little more gravity to my request than she was used to- maybe she had an idea. I concentrated really hard and thought about Wino before lobbing the coins into the air. I didn’t see them land, I just listened for the “plop” then moved on. I didn’t tell anyone what I wanted. I just followed my parents as they meandered through stores. At one point, I worried that if I’d see my pet again, he’d look like something from Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery-horrifying. But I couldn’t imagine Wino being like that. I didn’t want to, so I focused on favorite memories with Wino instead.

I think a lot of people view prayer as nothing more than tossing out a couple of requests like coins to a fountain. They don’ t necessarily know who’s listening and they link the likelihood of an answered prayer to some sort of superstitious or liturgical function or process that must be adhered to. Successful supplication requires satisfaction of particular circumstances. Then the person making requests walks away, not knowing if they’ve been heard.

I’ve done this. I bet you have too.

Some Jesus-people boast of great faith and credit the fruition of their prayers to this wonderful quality. Faith is a big deal. Even so, our faith doesn’t have to add up to anything greater than a mustard seed. I think the relationship we have with God matters more. He isn’t some impersonal wishing well waiting for us to pray the right way. Maybe the friendship with God helps us with the faith side of things. We know our friends. We get that they want to help us. We come to expect certain things out of them. God isn’t any different. Maybe when it comes to Him, we just call it faith.