So, the first thing we need to remember when we pray is to make sure we're praying God's will. If we're not sure if something is God's will or not, then we need to ask Him to let us know. Remember, If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (James 1:5) If you're not sure of God's will, ask Him to make it clear to you.
Then, once you feel certain that the thing for which you're praying is God's will, pray with fervency. Claim God's promises to give you what you ask for as long as you're not asking amiss. And here's the catch that I discussed the other day: Don't just believe that God can do it; believe that He will do it. That's what James means when he says, But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. (James 1:6-7) Don't waver. Don't doubt that God will give you what you've prayed for. Claim God's promises and own your prayer. Otherwise, according to James, we may or may not receive anything from God. It's all about faith.
Think back to the many miracles that Jesus performed during his earthly ministry. How many times did He utter the phrase, "Thy faith has made thee whole"? People came to Him, believing with all their hearts that He could and would heal them, and because of their faith, Jesus granted their requests.
But, I think the best example of what I'm trying to explain is that of Elijah and the four hundred prophets of Baal in I Kings 18. When Elijah proposed a contest between God and Baal, he was putting his life on the line. There he was, for the most part alone, in the midst of 400 prophets of Baal plus other false prophets plus the evil King Ahab, who hated Elijah and would gladly watch him die a horrible death. Elijah knew it was God's will to destroy the prophets of Baal and win over the children of Israel, so he went all out. He allowed the prophets of Baal to go first, and as we know, nothing happened. At that point, Elijah could have just prayed for God to send down fire to consume the sacrifice, and that, in itself, would have won the contest. But, no. Elijah claimed God's promises. He went BIG! After placing his sacrifice on the altar, he poured water and more water and more water over the sacrifice, the altar, the wood, the ground, etc. It was all soaked! Then, he prayed, never doubting what God was going to do. He wasn't worried about how he would escape if God didn't answer. He wasn't concerned with whether or not he'd look bad in front of all these people if God chose to ignore his request. No, he prayed and believed with all his heart that God was going to send down fire per Elijah's request. Elijah prayed in a big way, and God answered likewise. Not only did He consume the sacrifice but also the wood, the stone, the water and even the dirt. God honored Elijah's prayer of faith, and He'll honor yours.
Again, let me make clear that "ask and ye shall receive" doesn't mean that we can treat God like Santa Claus and hand Him a list of our wants. That's not how it works. God says that we should abide in Him, which means that His desires become our desires. Once that happens, we can pray in faith, knowing that the thing for which we're praying is God's will for our lives. And when we pray in faith, with nothing wavering, God rewards us accordingly.
I hope I have cleared up any confusion on this matter. As I said, it is a difficult subject and one that has been twisted to suit man's philosophy. But, if you'll sit down and compare God's Word with God's Word, I think the situation will become clearer. Still, if you have any questions, fire away. I don't guarantee you that I'll have an answer, but perhaps we can study it out together.