The person who just bursts into prayer.

You might’ve been in this scenario: You’re talking with a fellow Christian about something. Could be any subject; doesn’t entirely matter. But at some point, something you mention gets ’em riled up. They wanna stop your conversation, and pray about that. Immediately. This instant. Before any more time elapses.

…Okay. Nothing wrong with prayer, so you do.

But it’s not a simple, “Lord Jesus, you know best; sort this out; amen.” Nor one of its 30-second, slightly longer relatives. It’s a full-on loud, vigorous prayer. Goes on for a while; almost as if the petitioner is trying to filibuster God.

Then they finally stop, and you can go back to your conversation. Except you’re sorta thinking, “What was that all about?”

I mean, if it were anybody but God we’re talking about—if they suddenly interrupted your conversation because they needed to talk to their spouse, then spent ten minutes shouting into their phone—you’d think something was wrong with their relationship, right? Something unhealthy’s going on.

Same deal here. We’re talking about a variant of the street-corner show-off: Somebody who wants to show off what a good prayer intercessor they are, and doing so by breaking out in intercession at the drop of a hat. Maybe they don’t think it’s showing off ’cause they’ve been doing it for years, and it’s just what they do now. But I guarantee you it began with showing off.

If a person has so little patience (a fruit of the Spirit, you recall) they simply can’t wait to pray, as if their prayers are the only thing keeping God from springing into action… yep, we’re dealing with ego. Immaturity. Showing off. Hypocrisy.

So what do we do when people interrupt a conversation with, “I wanna pray about this right now?”

Well first of all, read the situation. If you don’t know that this person wants to play “prayer warrior” on you—if they’re an immature Christian who’s not a show-off, and legitimately wants prayer because they’re really emotional right now—you don’t have to worry about discouraging bad behavior. You really oughta pray for them. So do.

Otherwise simply say, “We can pray about it later.”

Because you can. God’s not limited by time. If you pray for something after it happens, your prayers can actually still influence what happens. It’s never too late to pray for things. The only time you ever need to pray right this moment, is when the Holy Spirit orders you to pray right this moment. The rest of the time, relax.

But the immature Christian is gonna lack self-control, and gonna go bonkers at the idea. Because you’re missing an opportunity. There’s an open door right now, and God might shut it on you! There’s a kairos-moment that’s passing you by! Whatever their clichéd excuse for their bad behavior, it’s gonna eat ’em alive till they scratch that itch. And they’re actually gonna blame that uncontrollable urge on the Holy Spirit, as if it’s his idea for them to lose control in fervent prayer. It’s really not.

Whenever I’ve said, “Let’s pray about it later,” I’ve actually been accused of not trusting God enough to pray about it now. To which I responded, “You really think God’s gonna ding us for being patient? He’s the one who tells us to be patient. Love is patient.” 1Co 13.4 It shut that person up, but don’t be surprised if a rational response doesn’t work on everyone. When people get emotional, they don’t wanna hear logic. They just wanna act, and don’t want anyone to tell them different. It’s fleshly thinking, but that’s just how immature Christians behave.

Praying immediately.

I will say that in nearly every other circumstance, it’s a good idea, and a good habit to get into, to immediately pray whenever we see a need. We might forget to pray about it later. Takes very little effort to say briefly to God, “Lord Jesus, you know best; sort this out; amen.” Or “Christ have mercy.” Whatever.

At the same time, it’s important to remember Jesus wants these prayers to remain private. Mt 6.6 For the usual reasons: We don’t wanna show off, we don’t want peer pressure to influence our prayers, we wanna stay entirely open and honest with God.

Immature Christians don’t get this. They’re correct in that we oughta pray about such things. They’re right to want to pray. But they take what oughta be a private conversation, and do it for an audience. Even if it’s an audience of one—you—it’s an audience. Because they know they’re being overheard, they’re gonna keep that audience in mind, and not be as honest and open with God as they should. They unintentionally slide into hypocrisy. And often it’s not unintentional.

If they utterly ignore your requests and pray anyway, leave. Don’t storm out; don’t return rudeness for rudeness. Be kind. But leave. Tell them, “I can tell your conversation with God is very emotional, so it needs to be private, so it’s not appropriate for me to be here.” Sometimes they actually stop, ’cause what good is showing off without an audience? Other times they brush you off and keep right on praying, ’cause they figure they’re in the right; it’s a pride thing, and more immature behavior. If they stop, stay. If not, leave.

And if they ask you to say the prayer… okay! “Lord Jesus, you know best; sort this out; amen.” Praying in public should be intentional and efficient, ’cause you wanna minimize the showing off, and simply tell God what needs to be said. Be a good example.

Prayer.