I came across this post recently from a site called The Chastity Project. I appreciated its message with regard to the use of novenas as a tool to discern one's vocation, or to obtain any particular definite answer. The greater concern is the human insecurity (fear) that underlies much of our prayer. Insecure people pray not to seek God's will for their lives but rather to dictate that will, to "control and enjoy" God much as alcoholics desire to "control and enjoy" their drinking.
Karl Marx was known to call religion "the opiate of the people." (I am surely quoting it out of context, but that makes me no different from many people.) The situations in which we find ourselves, and our insecurities about them, often admit of no easy--and sometimes no possible-- solution.
BUT!!! "Nothing is impossible for God" (Lk 1:37), right? "If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it" (Jn 14:14), right? Then there's the Catechism, which quotes Tertullian: "Prayer is the only thing that can conquer God"!
Whence people of faith are known to turn to prayer, justifiably, to allay their fears and foster the sense that everything will be all right. Going all the way back to the pre-Pentecost days, followers of Christ have engaged in novenas--nine days of storming the heavens with their intentions. Disciples pray, and they enjoin others to pray for them. But with what motives? "If God sees that I'm serious about this matter, He'll have to grant it!" Now I don't believe that every praying person thinks so, but some must. The felt need to prove ourselves to God may be a subtle, even unconscious attitude, but it's there. And it's born of fear, betraying a lack of that "perfect love" that, to be honest, I haven't found in a great many people. (Should I just start keeping better company?)
The most egregious examples of the temptation to seek control of God include the consultation of mediums, interpretation of omens, etc. (cf. CCC 2110-2117). Conducted with full understanding and consent, these acts constitute grave sin. Manipulative intentions in prayer may well qualify as a venial sin, at best, but are nonetheless to be avoided.
Take the example covered by the Everts: Unmarried adults sometimes feel pressure from their parents or peers, or often from themselves, that "I should be married by now," or (if already paired, especially if cohabitating) "We should just get married." It can become a decision made out of fear/insecurity and not in the highest possible freedom of spirit. If this can happen with respect to such great decisions as marriage, how much more so with lesser concerns?
If there is any assurance to be gleaned therefrom, recall that there is a degree of insecurity in all of us. We seek the Lord's help to root out every deficiency that He reveals to us this side of the grave. And we continue to pray, both "directly" to the Lord and "indirectly" to the saints; these latter being fellow human beings who dealt successfully (i.e., faithfully) with their own "ill sets." We also seek help from trusted (living) human sources; and this without shame or worry, for those living sources need someone to extract them from their sinful attachments, lethargy, and neurosis, too!