Now after these things, having considered how many possible accidents may arise in marriages, which it was necessary for the man to endure and in this way suffer very great hardships, or if he did not endure, to transgress the word of Christ, the disciples say to him, taking refuge in celibacy as easier, and more expedient than marriage, though the latter appears to be expedient, “If the case of the man is so with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.” (Matthew 19:10) And to this the Saviour said, teaching us that absolute chastity is a gift given by God, and not merely the fruit of training, but given by God with prayer, “All men cannot receive the saying, but they to whom it is given.” (Matthew 19:11) Then seeing that some make a sophistical attack on the saying. “To whom it is given,” as if those who wished to remain pure in celibacy, but were mastered by their desires, had an excuse, we must say that, if we believe the Scriptures, why at all do we lay hold of the saying, “But they to whom it is given,” but no longer attend to this, “Ask and it shall be given you,” (Matthew 7:7) and to that which is added to it, “For every one that asks receives?” (Matthew 7:8) For if they to whom it is given can receive this saying about absolute purity, let him who wills ask, obeying and believing Him who said, “Ask and it shall be given you,” (Matthew 7:7) and not doubting about the saying, “Every one that asks receives.” (Matthew 7:8) But when there you will inquire who it is that asks, for no one of those who do not receive has asked, even though he seems to have done so, since it is not lawful to say that the saying, “Every one that asks receives,” is a lie. Who then is he that asks, but he who has obeyed Jesus when He says, “If you stand praying, believe that you receive, and you shall receive?” (Mark 11:24-25) But he that asks must do everything in his power that he may pray with the spirit and pray also “with the understanding,” (1 Corinthians 14:15) and pray “without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) keeping in mind also the saying, “And He spoke a parable unto them to the end that they ought always to pray, and not to faint, saying, There was in a city a judge,” (Luke 18:1-2) etc. And it is useful to know what it is to ask, and what it is to receive, and what is meant by “Every one that asks, receives,” (Matthew 7:8) and by “I say unto you though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity, he will arise and give him as many as he needs.” (Luke 11:8) It is therefore added, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you,” and so on. Further, let the saying, “All men cannot receive the saying but they to whom it is given,” (Matthew 19:11) be a stimulus to us to ask worthily of receiving; and this, “What son is there of you who shall ask his father for a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent,” (Luke 11:11) etc. God therefore will give the good gift, perfect purity in celibacy and chastity, to those who ask Him with the whole soul, and with faith, and in prayers without ceasing.
[From Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Book XIV, Chapter 25, “Chastity and Prayer,” by Origen]