Have you ever heard someone praying and it sounded like they were trying to persuade God to do something he didn't want to do? Was it you? I know I've prayed like that. I don't mean praying with desperation for something you really need. I've done that too and that's fine, we're supposed to bring our needs to God. I mean praying for something without believing God wants to answer. Sometimes we're like the older brother from the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. The younger brother received his inheritance and wasted it all on crazy parties before coming home to try to get a job working for his father. He was amazed to find his father looking out for him to return, and he received gifts and the fattened calf was killed for a feast in his honour. The older brother saw this and was upset. He confronts their father saying "I've served you my whole life and never disobeyed you, and you never even gave me a small goat to celebrate." We all know about good character, humility, gratitude and all that, so you'd think the Father would say "How dare you be so selfish! Today's not about you, it's about your brother." but instead he says "Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours." The older brother could have had a goat any time, they were all already his he just never asked. Both brothers had the same wrong idea about what their father was like. The younger brother found he was in need, and though he could earn what he needed from his father. The older brother had a desire, and was angry because he thought he had earned what he desired. The truth is that they didn't have to earn anything. Their father was pleased to give it to them because they were his children, they just had to come and ask. Answered prayer doesn't depend on who we are or what we've done. It depends on whether we believe in who God is and act on it.
How about praying boldly for something, then suddenly thinking it's too much and reducing it? "Lord, let this broken leg be healed right now! Or at least make it hurt less and get better quickly. Or at least let there be no complications. Or at least let the complications not be life threatening. Or at least let the funeral arrangements go smoothly. Actually forget it, sorry I wasted your time. Amen." That's doubt and we need to be careful that we don't allow ourselves to think that way. James 1:5-6 says that if anyone needs more wisdom (who doesn't?) they should ask God and He'll give it to them, but it goes on to say that when we ask we should not doubt, and if we doubt we shouldn't expect to receive what we need. That means if we pray in faith and without doubt we should expect to receive what we prayed for. Often I've found that doubt seems reasonable, but if I defy that feeling of doubt and all the good reasons for it and keep going then there's breakthrough and God answers. Healing is probably the clearest example. Many times I've prayed for people believing God is a good Father who has already paid for the healing on the cross (Isaiah 53:5) and nothing happened, prayed again and nothing happened, prayed again and they got a tiny bit better, prayed again and the full healing came.
That leads into my final thought: We should look for the answers for what we pray for. Again healing is a great example. I've noticed that sometimes we pray with people for healing, but then forget to ask if anything got better. It might come from being scared or embarrassed to discover nothing happened, but I think sometimes it's just habit. We do things how we're used to doing things. Whatever the reason, we need to know if the prayer was effective so that we can pray again if necessary. There is an idea that to pray a second time shows that you doubted the first time, but it's not true. Jesus said to pray and keep on praying until we receive what we're praying for, using an example of a woman asking a judge to take her case every day until he got fed up of it and took the case just to make her stop asking. We should pray until we receive what we ask for. Jesus even prayed for a blind man a second time, when he received some healing but couldn't make sense of what he was seeing. If Jesus prayed twice then it makes sense that we would too. Often we pray for things that are a bit less concrete than healing, so it's easier to miss the answer. I think we should follow up on the things we pray for and find out what God did. If you pray for someone's meeting with their boss or house viewing or whatever, ask them how it went. If you ask for peace take a moment to receive it and see if you feel more peaceful. Often we pray for more of the Holy Spirit, or for the Holy Spirit to fill us up. No one in the bible gets filed with the Holy Spirit and doesn't notice, so we can look for some experience of being filled. We should always look for what God is doing.
I think that's it, hope it made sense.