We are not the first followers of Jesus, but we may as well be, since we are connected to them by the same Spirit who called them into the same grace in which we stand. As Ephesians 4:4-7 says:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
In days past the Church elevated special people to remember them and then to pray to them. In the Middle Ages the veneration of saints was a key form of piety. That has justly worn out. We are back to a more biblical approach to appreciating our spiritual ancestors.
We pray with our forebears in the faith for many reasons:
We are humble and don’t want to get the idea that we have invented faith.
We learn from them: how they got it right, where they got it wrong.
We need our history or we are adrift in the idea that progress makes everything in the past useless. It does not. We have our own history that has value and we leave a legacy that makes a difference. God, in Jesus, is part of our history as members of humanity.
We need inspiration. Our ancestors have been where we are going, quite often. They help convince us to keep going.
We are, as a body, in fact, transhistorical. It is part of the new creation that has been revealed to us. We need to help others and our children get a handle on who we are as the children of God.