Erich Lessing

An almoner gives bread to the poor while Jesus looks down and blesses him, in this initial letter “A” from a 13th-century French illuminated devotional book, called “The Miracles of Our Lady.” According to Murphy-O’Connor, it is such acts of Christian charity that Jesus had in mind when he promised that those who ask will receive.

According to author Murphy-O’Connor, the Gospel of Matthew best captures the spirit of Jesus’ thoughts on prayers. Matthew concludes his discussion of prayer with the Golden Rule: “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find … Hence, whatever you wish that men would do to you, thus also you do to them” (Matthew 7:7, 12). Matthew and other writers understood that Christians themselves, as a community, were the earthly agents of God’s grace. People’s prayers, even if they were addressed to God, were—or should be—answered by their fellows.