I remembered this story on the bus tonight, so I thought I'd post it here. I first heard it told to me by the Krishna devotee who led the ISKCON Gita class my wife and I used to go to. I'm not sure if it fits with non-Gaudiya Hinduism (since Gaudiya Vaishnavism doesn't emphasise asking God for material things).

I can't remember it exactly, though, but I'll write as much as I can remember. So here goes...

Once upon a time there was a king. As was the custom at that time, when the king's birthday came around, he told his subjects that he would give them anything they asked for. One man came to the king and asked him for money. The king gave him ten thousand gold pieces. Another man came to the king and asked the king for a larger house. The king sent his workers out to build a new house for the man. A third man came and asked the king to build a proper road through his village. The king sent a team of workmen to the village to build the road.

But the fourth man who approached the king said "Sire, I want to be your friend." The king looked at him "What? I could give you money or a new house? Surely you'd rather have that?" But the man simply said "No, I just want to be your friend." So the king said "All right, I'll be your friend."

A few days passed and the king's chief minister came to him. "What about that man to whom you said you'd be his friend? Since you're his friend now, you have to go and visit him."

"All right," said the king. "I'll go and visit my friend."

"But your friend's village doesn't have a proper road through it," the minister said."We won't be able to drive your chariot there."

So the king sent his workmen to build a road through his friend's village.

"Now that I've built a road, I can go and see my friend," said the king when the road was finished.

"Sire, his village is far away from here. If you go there, you'll have to stay there for a few days as it's too far to come back."

"All right," said the king.

"But your friend only has a small house. He doesn't have enough room for you to stay with him."

"Now that won't do at all!" said the king. "I'll send my workmen out to build a big house for my friend. Then I'll be able to stay with him."

When the house was completed, the king said "Now I can set out to see my friend."

Again the king's chief minister spoke up. "Sire, when you visit your friend, he will have to serve you food, as befits a host. Your friend is very poor; he has barely enough food to live on."

When the king heard this, he said "I'll give my friend ten thousand pieces of gold. That way he won't be poor and he'll be able to receive me properly as a guest."

So the king set out to see his friend. The two of them talked in his friend's new house, and the king found himself liking this humble man more and more. Eventually he said "My friend, I want you to marry my daughter."

The man said "Sire, how can I marry your daughter? You're the king and I'm just nobody."

So the king divided his kingdom in half and gave half of it to his friend. Then his friend married the king's daughter and eventually became the next king.

The king in this story represents God. If we approach God simply as one who gives us what we ask for, he will give us wealth or a bigger house if that's what we want. However, if we humbly approach God and request to be God's friend, then He will give us the things we want and bless us with so much more.