We note in the context for this passage that it follows the full layout of the armor Christians wear for the spiritual warfare they conduct in this world. After being adequately alerted and suitably armored, we are ready to pray.

You know the old jokes about the old maid English teachers. Well, I used to be an English teacher and I can tell you, any such instructor would have handed verse 18 back to Paul and said, "Simplify this. It's too complicated. I'm not sure what you're saying." But, we have it the way he said it, and will have to try to negotiate our way through it.

John Bunyan called this "all prayer," meaning that prayer is the first, the best, the most, the greatest, and we do well to infuse everything we do with this spiritual discipline.

"Pray at all times in the Spirit." Spiritual warfare demands that the believer stay close to the Lord and abide in Him for strength and direction.

"For all the saints." Be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, Paul says. That instruction reminds us we're not praying just for the members of our group or our congregation. You drive past a church, pray for its members. You read something about a congregation, pray for its people. You meet a pastor of another church or hear one on the radio, pray for him and his people.

"And pray for me." And what shall we pray for you, Paul? Bear in mind that most likely, he is in prison in Rome (he calls himself "a prisoner in chains"). So, he wants out, right? Wants better treatment? A good lawyer? Leniency from the judge? Decent food. Protection from some bully? Nope. None of those things.

"Pray that I'll be able to preach the Word boldly with effectiveness." That's all he wanted.

The new pastor of our church could produce quite a list of prayer needs, no doubt, including the Lord's protection as he relocates his family to our city, provision in selling his old house and purchasing one here, and wisdom in the many decisions he will make as he begins his ministry. But pre-eminently, I believe he would say with Paul that his first prayer request is for his preaching, that every time he stands he will have God's message and declare it faithfully and forcefully.

Unity, love, prayer. We recall what great concerns these were with the Lord for His disciples in all His teachings, but, never more than in His final hours with them in the upper room. While there was a finality about His words that night, a new and exciting chapter for the disciples was about to begin. Therefore, nothing would be more important than that they stay together, love one another, and be faithful in praying.

"The Upper Room Discourse" covers chapters 13-17 of John's Gospel. In His final words with the disciples before He goes to the cross, we find Jesus emphasizing these concerns again and again throughout....

Chapter 13. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (Verses 34-35) Love, Unity.

Chapter 14. "If you love me, keep my commandments.... He who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved my my Father.... He who does not love me does not keep my words...." (V.15, 21, 24) Love.

Chapter 15. "Just as the Father loved me, I have also loved you. Abide in my love." "This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." "This I command you, that you love one another." (V. 9, 12, 13, 17) Love, Unity.

Chapter 16. "Truly, truly, I say to you, that if you ask the Father for anything in my name, He will give it to you....ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full." (V. 23, 24) Prayer.