There are two ways to ask for something. One is to kvetch. The other is a little more sophisticated.

Here’s a high-level example:

I’m working at home on what turns out to be one of those summer days when there’s no school, no camp, and nothing for the kids to do.

Printer runs out of ink. My chance to escape.

“Dear, I’m off to Staples for some ink!”

One foot is already out the door. But wife is desperate.

“Take the kids! Please!”

Throw kids in van. Drive mile to Staples, at Centerpoint Mall. As I’m pulling in—no, no, please save me from this! I can’t handle this! It’s hot as a frying pan out on that pavement! I have work to do! I can’t handle this at this point in my life!

But, it’s there. The ferris wheel. And the rest. They’ve set up an entire theme park on the shopping center parking lot, and I’ve just driven straight into their trap, holding the victims of prey in the back seat.

Firmly, I resolve not to surrender. I am a man of iron will. I have work to do. Responsibilities. As tough as it’s going to be, I will have to say no, we’re just getting ink and going home. Tomorrow your mother will take you. If you ask nicely.

I’m ready for them now. I’m strong. Relentless.

But they’re a step ahead of me. I can hear them already whispering back there. A conspiracy is underway.

And then, in unison, they burst out,

“Oh, thank you, Daddy! You’re the best daddy in the whole world! You brought us for a surprise! Yay Daddy!”

Five minutes later, I’m standing on the hot pavement, at the foot of a ferris wheel, waving to my kids.

Some folks think that if you don’t kvetch about what you don’t have, G‑d might not notice you don’t have it. It’s not true. The best way to get what you want is to be grateful for what you got. That’s not manipulative; that’s an act of trust and love. As illustrated above.

And that’s the secret behind an awful lot of our prayers, beginning with the all-inclusive petitions we make right after the morning blessings, all the way through the Amidah, the summit point of the morning service: First give thanks for what you got, and only then ask for what you need.