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Pope: Arm wrestle with God, be bold and insistent!


Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA | I.Media

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 09/29/22

Pope Francis tells his Jesuit brothers what's on his heart: the prayer of intercession.

The Jesuit journal in Italy on September 29 released an English-language transcription and translation of Pope Francis’ meeting with Jesuits of the Russian region during his September 13-15 visit to Kazakhstan.

While much of the conversation centered on the war in Ukraine, the Holy Father also responded to personal questions. One of those, on behalf of seminarians, was simply, What’s on your heart? What are you praying about?

The Pope answered with some advice on prayer: Be normal!

“Be normal also in prayer,” he said. “Pray like a son to his father.”

And then he asserted: “It is normality that means seriousness.”

Regarding his own prayer, he said:

The prayer that comes naturally to me is always the invocation: “Look at your people, Lord!” Nothing else comes to me. It really is a very simple thing. Intercession is knocking at the heart of the Lord. It is the prayer of intercession.

Boldness and arm wrestling

The Holy Father went on to make a reference to the New Testament, using the Greek word parrhesia. This word is in reference to the freedom with which ancient Greeks could speak in court, or in politics and in theater. It implies a boldness and clarity, even an obligation to speak freely, and in truth.

The Pope said that this is a “virtue” in prayer.

He further illustrated his point with reference to Genesis 18, which recounts the long back-and-forth between Abraham and God, when Abraham seems to back God down from destroying Sodom:

Then Abraham came near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? …

all the way down to:

Then he said, “Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” 


In this context, the Pope told the Jesuits, “Let us not forget that in prayer one needs parrhesia, clarity, courage. The model is that of Abraham, when he prays, ‘Let not my Lord be angry if…’ and then he makes his request in an insistent way.”

The Pope said that one has to arm wrestle with God:

One has to pray pulseando with God, as we say in Spanish. It is a courageous prayer, face to face. It is not so much seeking consolation, which must be sought, yes. But above all: Ask, ask, ask… We think that parrhesia is only a virtue of action, but no, it is also a virtue of prayer.

Pope FrancisPrayer
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