I think sometimes we mistake prayer for simply asking God for the things we want and expecting exact results. I know I do. Have your prayers ever looked like this? "Lord, give me a nice home," "Please help me get that job I want," "I want to make more money," "God, I really want to get engaged and married right now."
My prayers can be pretty specific that way too. I used to ask God for a certain job I really wanted. My reason for wanting the job was because I wanted to be successful with the talents God has given me. But at the time I wasn't even giving Him credit for those gifts, I was just feeling entitled. I prayed and prayed and I didn't get the job, no matter how specific those prayers were.
After a few years of trying, praying, and digging into God's Word for some answers, I came across a verse that told me, "Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4) I thought, "Not me, I still don't have that job I've been praying for." Then someone explained to me that I wasn't praying for Gods plans for me, I was praying for my own plans. I couldn't argue with that truth! So with the help of a friend I started praying a new prayer: "God please align your plans for me with my own desires in my heart."
My heart began to change, but that doesn't mean my goal of that dream job disappeared. My reasoning, however, for wanting the job was completely different. God had answered my prayers by changing my heart. Then, in His own perfect timing, He answered my prayers again. I got the job but I also saw more clearly what He wanted me to do with that job. It wasn't about my own personal success, instead God gave me a platform to reach out to an entire community and share His love. It was more than I could have ever hoped for.
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11.
God has plans for all of us and they are more perfect than anything we could imagine for ourselves. Sometimes He is waiting for our hearts to change to answer those prayers. Sometimes He is waiting for us to stop running away in the wrong direction and fighting Him. Sometimes He says no to protect us or reveal something better.
Our Heavenly Father does answer prayers. But just like when we asked our earthly parents to do something when we were young, an answer doesn't always mean a "Yes." Sometimes it's "Not now" or "When you're ready" or "No, but what about this instead." We just have to seek those answers by seeking God's plans for us and asking Him to put on our hearts what those plans are.