And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. (1 John 5:14-15 KJV)
I cant' tell you how many times I have heard this verse cited as proof that it doesn't matter what we ask of God, He will give it to us. The problem is that these people forget the little phrase "according to his will".
I am guilty of bringing my laundry list of wants and percieved needs to Him and wondering why He doesn't answer my prayers in regards to certain items. Have I stopped to think that perhaps what I am asking is not according to His will? Perhaps He has a reason for withholding a particular request and He has a purpose to accomplish by not answering it. Yet, I shake my fist and cry out, "Why haven't You answered this prayer?" Funny thing, what I percieve as God not answering my prayer actually is God answering my prayer. He is answering with either "Wait" or "No".
I think of one particular prayer request that I have prayed for every day for years and that is for my husband to be able to sleep at night so he can cope with his job. For some reason, God has not seen fit to answer that prayer in the affirmative and my husband continues to suffer from sleep deprivation to the point of losing his mind at times. He has tried many things and worked with the doctors on many different things. I do not know why God is choosing to not grant him sleep that is so necessary to living. And yet, for some reason unknown to me, this doesn't seem to be His will.
As I think of all the prayers recorded by the apostles in the New Testament, I see that all of them, without exception, never prayed for those they ministered to and loved to be spared from suffering. These prayers were written during intense times of persecustion. You would think they would have prayed that they would be spared from this, but they didn't. Without exception they prayed for the spiritual well-being of their loved ones and those they ministered to. They prayed for them to be strengthened in the inner man.
Perhaps when God chooses to not answer my prayers in the way that I have asked, I should shift my focus to praying for the spiritual needs of the person for whom I am praying for. When God doesn't answer my prayers for my own perceived needs, perhaps I need to step back and ask God instead to help me grow spiritually through whatever it is that I have been praying for him to fix.