Photo by Scala/Art Resource, N.Y.

ON THE COVER: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7). With her head draped in a shawl and her eyes and hands raised to heaven, a praying woman (called an orante), depicted on the wall of the third-century Catacomb of Priscilla, in Rome, appears to take Matthew’s promise to heart and faithfully directs her appeal to God in heaven. Yet early Christians grappled with the same questions moderns do: Does God really hear prayers? If so, why doesn’t he always respond? In “Why Doesn’t God Answer Prayers?”, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor shows that even the gospel writers had different explanations for when and why prayers work, and when and why they don’t.