In the first place, when God does not answer one’s prayer, one should exercise humility. Humility is accurate self-knowledge. One who is humble will recognize that as a limited creature, as a human being, he is not guaranteed to always know what is best for himself, either naturally or supernaturally. But, on the other hand, God, with His perfect wisdom and perfect knowledge, could never be mistaken in His judgment. Therefore, if God were to refuse a request in prayer, one should recognize and accept that one is a fallible creature who was mistaken in making this particular request to God while at the same time acknowledging God’s perfections.
One should also practice resignation. As Canon Francis Ripley explains in his work, This Is the Faith, “We must always be prepared to leave our position in the hands of God, Who knows best. Nor must we complain if our request is not granted. It will certainly be rewarded in some way.” It is for this reason that spiritual writers recommend, especially when praying for temporal goods, that one add, “If this be according to Your Will,” or words to this effect, in one’s prayer so that this resignation is acknowledged and stirred up.
And, as Canon Ripley stated, all of this should be undertaken without complaining either to God or to others. Rather, one should give thanks to God for being such a good and loving Father that He would not indulge His child by giving him something which would not be truly beneficial for him.
Now, it might also be the case that God is just delaying granting a particular request. If after one has been praying over a period of time for a particular request which has not been granted, but one feels convicted to keep making the request, it could be that God is training the soul in perseverance (as explained in the previous article).
Humility, resignation, thanksgiving – all undertaken without complaining – these are how one should properly respond when God does not answer a particular request made in prayer.