Typically at the root of a question like that is a feeling that God isn’t either A. Not hearing their prayer or B. God isn’t answering the way they want. Sometimes those feelings are rooted in a misconception of who God is. Many times God is viewed as the Great Bubble Gum Dispenser or “Easy Button.” Some prayer goes in and out comes the answer to prayer. Sometimes we want God to operate on our time table, and we act as though He is at our beck and call, so we tap the “easy button” in prayer.
I think that is a wrong view of God in general and the wrong approach to prayer specifically. First of all we have to realize that we don’t know what God knows. Consider Isaiah 55:9 which reads,
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,” (ESV).
Secondly we also realize that prayer is more about our conforming to God’s will than it is to get Him to act on our behalf. Looking at Isaiah again…
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
calling a bird of prey from the east,
the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it.
“Listen to me, you stubborn of heart,
you who are far from righteousness:
I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off,
and my salvation will not delay;
I will put salvation in Zion,
for Israel my glory.”, (Isaiah 46:10-13, ESV)
What God has spoken God will bring to pass. He will do what He has purposed. More time should be spent asking God to help us not to be “stubborn of heart” and that He would conform us to His will. He is in control, are we trusting in Him in the good times and bad?
God wants us to go to Him with our needs, (Matthew 6:11) before we do we should be praying that His Kingdom, His rule and His reign be present on earth as it is in Heaven, (Matthew 6:10). He also wants us to cast our anxiety upon Him, (1 Peter 5:6-7). Also He wants us to pray about everything instead of worrying, (Philippians 4:6-7). We also pray to Him for forgiveness and come to him in repentance (Psalm 51; Jeremiah 29:12-13; Matthew 11:28-30; Romans 10:13; 1 John 1:7-9).
God does hear and answer prayer, (Psalm 34:15-18), but sometimes His answers aren’t always what we think (again His ways and thoughts are higher than our own). Sometimes His plan is that we go through suffering because it builds our character and dependence on God. Sometimes our loved ones need to hit rock bottom because only then will they repent. Sometimes He is calling those who are sick homeward. Sometimes what we ask isn’t according to His will and not what is best.
In the midst of times in which I’m faced with circumstances that I don’t understand Proverbs 3:5-6 has been a great guide for me, “Trust in the LORD with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Mostly prayer is about a love relationship with God whom through Christ we can “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” (Hebrews 4:16, ESV). He calls us to rest in Him, enjoy Him and treasure Him, and we can do that through prayer.