When I pray for something specifically and then something in the realm of my prayer occurs, I take note. Sometimes the event that occured should not be taken as an answer to prayer but may indeed be a temptation or just an event to remember and look back upon.
Let me give an example. Over a year ago, while walking one morning I was praying and asking God if He could and would provide me with a husband. I knew that God can do all things, I just wasn't sure that he would or if that was something that he was concerned about for me personally.
Well fast forward about two days. I was at work and a friendly guy, who I didn't really know more than surface work stuff about, asked me if I would go out with him. I completely didn't see that one coming, and was quite rude by responding with the first thing that came to mind which went something like "aren't you a lot older than me?". The rest of the conversation was awkward as I told him no.
Now, as humans it would be easy to take the two events which happened in close proximaty to one another and interpret them into divine guidance that this is the man that I am to marry. It's tempting to do so and so easy in many areas to misinterpret God's will. In the case of being asked out by that guy it wasn't really hard to decide. Although he was nice and friendly, he was older than I, he alreay had children (whether from previous marriage or girlfriends I don't know), I don't know if he's a Christian, and our standards are different. He was not really the kind of guy I want to marry.
My non-inspired interpretation of that event is that God wanted to show me that he can indeed act at any time and in unexpected ways, that he does care for me personally, and that he is not bound by the circumstances of my life. It's almost more that he was reaching down and showing me that he can give me what I ask for, but it's probably not really what I wanted. (I need to be more specific in my prayers I guess!)
But in other situations, other prayers and other times the same question arrises. How is one to know the proper interpretation of what occurs in areas where you pray and something unexpected happens. When a circumstance occurs that answers a prayer in a way that you either want or that doesn't contradict biblical standards, how much should one attribute that circumstance to being an answer straight from God? Am I so warrry of turning a circumstance that God intended to test me or to show me his presence into an absolute guidance by God's hand that I miss his direction? There is a feeling a peace that He gives when one makes a decision that makes you think that it is of God. I wish (like many others I'm sure) that God did audibly speak or write us personalized emails when we pray to tell us what he plans or if a situation is an answer to a prayer. In fact, the emails would be best because then you could print them out and have them for a reference! However, for the time being, I must just trust God's character, rest in confidence of His direction and continue to pray for His guidance and thank God for his providence.
(Side note on providence as defined in Westminster Shorter Catechism Question #11: What are God's works of providence? God's works of providence are his most holy, wise and powerful preserving and governing of all his creatures and all their actions.)