One of life's greatest mysteries concerns the interplay between the individual and God. "Experiencing God" as my friend Henry Blackaby articulated it, is not a hard and fast science. Most believers in Jesus Christ who I know still struggle to understand the dynamics and the practical interplay between God's Word, God's activity, and their actions. Consider what Jesus had to say in His Sermon on the Mount.
Nestled in the final chapter between Jesus' instructions on dealing with anxiety, worry, judgmental attitudes, and the Golden Rule, is a prescient promise. "Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7). The verbs in this verse depict continuous action, "keep on asking, seeking, and knocking."
It appears that the asking is directed exclusively toward God. Jesus states in verse 11, "how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ASK HIM." Here, our needs drive us to the Lord. What do you need? "Ask God for it,” Jesus instructs us. Everything from life's basic necessities, guidance in decisions great and small, to God's provisions when faced with overwhelming circumstances are fair game. When faced with the dilemma of choosing between multiple options, or faced with no opportunities or prospects, Jesus' instruction is the same, "Ask your Father in heaven!"
Coupled with asking our Father, Jesus also instructs us to keep on seeking and knocking. Seeking is when we look for the answer. Knocking is when we inquire and that repeatedly. So what is Jesus saying? "You get busy looking and inquiring. God will give an answer." So, how long do you ask, seek, and knock? Until you get an answer. It may take a day, a week, or years. Keep on! The answer is God's. The cooperation is yours.
Here is one caveat. If you have unfinished business with God, some area where God has said, "stop" and you persist, or God has said "go" and you have said "no," (recall Jonah) realize that God will not reward disobedience. God is patient. Then again, there are times when God withholds an immediate answer to prayer because He is working according to His timetable (recall Abraham, Sarah, and God's promise of an heir). So here is the point: live clean and trust God. Ask Him and then look for an answer.
So what do you do when you pray and no answer comes? Keep praying. Do not quit. Do not stop. Focus on who God is. Comfort yourself with the knowledge that God is God and nothing is too hard for Him. Add to this the assurance that God's care for you and love for you is limitless. He is not vindictive but has His own agenda. And He wants you to be part of His plan. If you do not see the answer, keep trusting God. Keep praying. Refuse to give up.