I don't know the answer to any of these questions but I do have thoughts on them, and I do think the questions are things everyone should consider.
I think that parents, in general, teach their kids to ask for stuff when they want it. EX: Appropriate question from a child "Mommy, can I please have a cookie?" Now the mom has two options. Give her kid a cookie, or don't give her kid a cookie. Now, the parent might have a legitimate reason not to give her kid a cookie- spoils appetite, its bedtime, the kid is in trouble, etc etc. The kid asked and whether they get the cookie or not is up to the parent- the parent who knows what is best for that child. In the same way, I think, God wants us to communicate our wants and needs to him. It's not because God doesn't know our needs but because asking is a way of submitting to Him and acknowledging to God that He provides EVERYTHING we own. If God doesn't answer a prayer, I don't believe it's because we didn't pray enough or because enough people didn't pray; I believe it is because God had a plan for our lives and He is not going to change that plan just because our human mind feels like something should be different. Sometimes we ask for selfish things. Sometimes, if not often, we see things in a warped way and don't understand a situation fully. When I pray, instead of asking for something specific, I ask for God to guide me in whatever I am praying about. Rather than asking God to save a kid, I ask him to give me strength to care for that child. Rather than asking for God to stop an injustice in the world, I pray that the victims of that injustice find God and ask for opportunities to be a part of change in the things I have a passion for.
I don't think God will change His plan just because we pray for an alternative outcome. The closer we get to God, the more we see His plan and the more our prayers are in sync with His plan; and we learn to pray for strength and endurance through what the world throws at us rather than praying for the world to stop throwing stuff at us... if that makes sense at all (it does in my mind). I often find myself asking God for guidance, and wisdom, and the right attitude. I am not affected by some stuff that others would be. Seeing dead bodies, huge burns, malnourished kids whose skin is peeing because they are so bloated with water, helping prepare a kid for burial... these things don't phase me. I don't know why. But it has made me have to be more sensitive when I talk to people about Haiti....
I have to sensor what I talk about with certain people because I want SO BAD for the world to love the Haitian people as much as I do. To learn about their culture, and understand why their kids are starving. But there's soo much more to Haiti than the pain and suffering. There's more hope here than any place I've ever been. There's such a desire to learn and love from the Haitian people. Haitians will do anything for their kids, but sometimes they just havn't been taught the proper way to care for a kid. But if I don't explain everything to people, and just tell of what I see, then people don't understand. And whose fault is that? Mine. So I pray for guidance when I share my life in Haiti. I pray that people see my love for Haitians and my heart for their needs and share it with me. I ask God to help me tell people why situations are the way they are here. When I share, for it not to be about me but to help to spread the needs of Haiti and share stories that I've been blessed enough to be a part of...
I guess my main point is that when I pray for material things or tangible items, answer not guaranteed. But when I ask for wisdom, strength, endurance, a spirit of love, or guidance in a situation- God never has failed me.
I think about this kind of stuff ALL the time and everything I could say about this topic wouldn't fit on a blog, sorry this was a little scattered... What do you think about prayer?