13 New Apostolic Christians and their life of faith

13.1 Prayer Back to top

In many religions, prayers are an expression of devotion to a higher being. Praying is generally considered an expression of devoutness.

Christians understand prayer as an opportunity given by God for human beings to enter into contact with Him. In prayer, the believer experiences: God is present, God hears, and God answers. Thus the believing human being bows before God's majesty and love in humbleness. Prayer is closely related to the Holy Spirit (Romans 8: 26).

In the Old and New Testaments, prayer is a verbal expression of belief in the God who has revealed Himself as the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. God addressed mankind first. For this reason, prayer is always mankind's response to God's word.

The figurative image of prayer as the "breathing of the soul" clearly expresses the necessity of prayer for faith. Faith without prayer is not a living faith. Prayer brings to expression love and reverence for God. Petitions are brought to God in the knowledge that the Almighty will lead all things to the benefit and eternal salvation of the supplicant.

13.1.1 Prayers in the Old Testament Back to top

The first biblical references to prayer can be found in Genesis 4: 26: "Then men began to call on the name of the Lord." This demonstrates a fundamental characteristic that has been intrinsic to prayer ever since: human beings turn to God and call upon Him in the firm belief that God hears them.

Psalm 95: 6 admonishes: "Oh come, let us worship". Examples of worship of God can be found in many hymns and psalms of the Old Testament, an example of which is the hymn of Moses: "For I proclaim the name of the Lord: ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He" (Deuteronomy 32: 3-4).

The psalmist admonishes: "Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever" (Psalm 106: 1). This prayer expresses thanks to the eternal God through honour and praise.

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit" (Psalm 51: 10-12). Such petitions in particularin addition to those pertaining to earthly lifeattest to that which is of importance to believing supplicants.

"Moses prayed for the people" (Numbers 21: 7) when God sent poisonous serpents in response to the murmuring of the Israelites. Compassion and love for one's neighbour come to expression in intercession.

The book of Psalms reflects the spiritual wealth of Old Testament prayer. It already points in the direction of New Testament prayer. An example is Hanna's prayer: when she brought her petition for a son to God, Holy Scripture says that she "poured out [her] soul before the Lord" (1 Samuel 1: 15). Her prayer of thanks after God graciously granted her plea is an example of profound praise of God, which is very closely related in content to the praise of Mary in the Magnificat (1 Samuel 2: 1-10; Luke 1: 26-55).

13.1.2 Jesus teaches prayer Back to top

The relationship between man and God changed fundamentally through Jesus Christ. On the basis of this new relationship with God, the Lord taught a kind of prayer that was previously unknown: on the one hand it is the prayer of a child who speaks to God as a loving Father in heaven (Matthew 6: 9), and on the other hand it is a prayer "in spirit and truth" (John 4: 24).

Jesus' disciples were believing Jews and thus familiar with prayer. Nevertheless, they wanted to learn how to pray like Jesus. One of His disciples asked Him: "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11: 1). In response Jesus gave the Lord's Prayer (see 12.1.7).

The Sermon on the Mount contains instructions on prayer (Matthew 6: 5-8): one is not to make an outward show of one's prayers or use a lot of words, "for your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him." Our prayers should rather come from the heart.

Jesus emphasised important aspects of prayer by way of three parables: in the parable of the friend at night, he emphasised that persistent prayer will have an effect (Luke 11: 5-10). The parable of the persistent widow admonishes persistent and patient prayer (Luke 18: 1-8). With the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector He demonstrated the significance of humbleness in prayer (Luke 18: 10-14).

Luke 21: 36 records an instruction of the Lord pertaining to prayer in view of His return: "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." Thus prayer is also associated with the necessary watchfulness in view of the coming of Jesus Christ.

13.1.3 Jesus prays Back to top

The gospel of Luke relates that Jesus prayed especially before decisive events:

  • before the Holy Spirit descended upon Him (Luke 3: 21-22);

  • before He chose the twelve Apostles (Luke 6: 12);

  • before designating Peter as the rock upon which He would build His church (Luke 9: 18-21; in connection with Matthew 16: 13-20);

  • before the Father transfigured Him in the presence of the witnesses from here and the beyond (Luke 9: 28-36);

  • before His bitter suffering began (Luke 22: 41-46);

  • before He died on the cross (Luke 23: 46).

The gospels attest the rich prayer life of Jesus: He would often withdraw into seclusion in order to enter into a dialogue with His Father (Matthew 14: 23; Mark 1: 35). He praised Him (Matthew 11: 25-27) and He thanked Him, even before His prayer had been granted (John 11: 41-42).

John 17 records the Lord's intercessory prayer. His intercession for the Apostles and the church–"I do not pray for these alone [the Apostles], but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one" (John 17: 20-21)–demonstrates how Jesus Christ approached His heavenly Father as an advocate on their behalf (1 John 2: 1).

Jesus prayed before His suffering. He knelt down and humbly bowed to the will of His Father: "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done." This prayer was a struggle of the soul. God did not allow this supplication to go unanswered: an angel appeared and strengthened Jesus (Luke 22: 41-44). Even as Jesus hung on the cross, He prayed for His tormentors (Luke 23: 34). His last words before death were likewise a prayer: "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit" (Luke 23: 46).

13.1.4 The prayer of the early Christians Back to top

Acts 4: 23-31 provides insight into the sincere prayers of the early congregations. Right from the start the early Christians practised communal prayer (Acts 1: 14). Accounts of intensive prayer are also recorded in association with significant events, for example the choosing of Matthias as an Apostle or the ordination of the first seven Deacons (see 7.5). The Apostles were also accompanied by sincere prayers in situations of danger (Acts 1: 24-25; 6: 6; 12: 12).

The letters of the Apostles emphasise the significance of prayer (James 5: 15-16). The Apostles also related that they prayed for the church (Ephesians 1: 16-23), and encouraged steadfastness in prayer (1 Thessalonians 5: 17).

From 1 Timothy 2: 1 it is clear that the prayers of the believers are to include all people: "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men."

13.1.5 The prayer of New Apostolic Christians Back to top

A significant function is assigned to collective prayer in the divine service: the Trinitarian invocation of God is followed by the opening prayer, in which worship, praise and thanks for divine protection and accompaniment, as well as petitions and intercessions, are brought to God. In the Lord's Prayer the congregation joins together in the prayer of the Son of God. Prior to the consecration of Holy Communion, the officiant offers up the Eucharistic prayer, which expresses thanks to God for the sacrifice of Christ, the forgiveness of sins, the sending of the Apostles, and the promise of Christ's return. At the close of the divine service, there is another prayer which expresses thanks for that which has been received, as well as the plea for angel protection and accompaniment, and longing for the day of the Lord. The needs of the members, as well as those of all people, find their place in these intercessions. Beyond that, the Lord is asked to accept the offerings and bless those who have offered.

In addition to collective prayers in the divine services, New Apostolic Christians also cultivate an individual prayer life. They begin and end the day in prayer. They likewise pray before meals and turn to God again and again throughout the course of the day in order to feel His nearness and seek His help. In family prayer, parents pray together with their children and thereby teach them to develop their own prayer life.

Prayer is not bound to any external form. Nevertheless, the intensity of a prayer can be promoted by closing one's eyes, folding one's hands, or kneeling, for example. The supplicant thereby withdraws from the busy activity of daily life to pause and bow before God in humbleness.

It is not necessary to express oneself in eloquent terms when praying. God knows the heart of the supplicant. If the latter's attitude is characterised by humbleness, faith, trust, and love for Him, the prayer will certainly find favour with the Almighty. The words used by the supplicant do not need to be spoken aloud. Even silent prayers find their way to God.

In terms of content, prayer is generally defined by adoration and worship, thanks, petitions, and intercessions. The knowledge of God's majesty and the grace that allows us to address Him as Father (Romans 8: 15) prompt us to worship God. Thankfulness applies to all the good things that have come out of the kindness of God. Above all, this includes the great deeds which God has performed, and still performs, upon mankind through word, grace, and sacrament. Beyond that, gratitude is expressed for earthly gifts such as sustenance, clothing, accommodations, and angel service and protection. In our petitions, we bring God our concerns as they pertain, for example, to the preservation of our faith and the help of God in daily life. The most important petition relates to the imminent return of Christ, and to the attainment of worthiness for it. Our intercessions are not limited to our own families or the congregation. Rather they include all who are in need of God's help, both here and in the beyond.

Not every prayer needs to contain all four componentsGod also hears our fleeting prayers in special situations of life. Depression, conditions of anxiety, physical pain, or deep suffering may make it impossible for a person to find the thoughts to formulate a prayer. Even then the supplicant is not cut off from God's help or nearness. Concerning this Romans 8: 26 states: "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." At such times it may also be helpful to pray the Lord's Prayer or recite one of the psalms, for example Psalm 23.

Prayers are concluded with the Hebrew word "Amen", which means: "So be it!" Here it is irrelevant whether one has actually spoken the prayer or simply prayed along in spirit.

13.1.6 Effects of prayer Back to top

Conscientious prayer opens a human being's heart to the knowledge: I am dependent upon God in my entire being! The attitude of the supplicant is characterised by childlike trust, humbleness, and fear of the Lord. It also comes to expression in formulations such as: "for Jesus' sake" or "in Jesus' name".

When a plea expressed in prayer is granted, it strengthens faith and increases thankfulness. However, those who pray will also make the experience that not every petition is granted. This does nothing to break the believers' trust: they remain assured that God hears every prayer and that, in His love, He ultimately guides everything for good to those who love Him (Romans 8: 28).

SUMMARY Back to top

Prayer is man's response to the word issued by God. In prayer believers experience: God is present, God hears, and God answers. (13.1)

Significant evidence of prayer in the Old Testament can be found in the Psalms. They contain worship of God, gratitude, pleas, and intercessions. (13.1.1)

Jesus Christ taught His followers to pray as a child who addresses God as "Father" and to pray "in spirit and truth". The Lord's Prayer, which was taught by Jesus, is a model for the prayer of all Christians. (13.1.2)

The gospels attest to the rich prayer life of Jesus. John 17 records the intercessory prayer, in which Jesus Christ brought intercessions to expression on behalf of the Apostles and the church. (13.1.3)

The early Christians practiced communal prayer right from the start. (13.1.4)

In addition to collective prayer in divine service, an individual prayer life is also important to New Apostolic Christians. (13.1.5)

In terms of content, prayer is defined by adoration and worship, thanks, petitions, and intercessions. The most important petition revolves around the imminent return of Christ and becoming worthy for it. (13.1.5)

13.2 Willingness to offer and sacrifice Back to top

The term "willingness to offer and sacrifice" refers to a person's inner desire to employ his powers and gifts for the benefit of others, by abstainingin whole or in partfrom realising his own interests.

There are various aspects to the term "sacrifice". For example, things offered to a higher being, as well as human deeds in service to others are generally described as "sacrifices" in common language. Monetary gifts that are donated for religious purposes are "sacrifices" in the religious sense.

Sacrifices are expressions of worship, gratitude, devotion, and submission to God.

13.2.1 From Old Testament sacrificial service to devoting one's life to God Back to top

Sacrifice and sacrificial service played an important role in practically all the religions of ancient civilisationsas also in Israel. Sacrifice was intended to invoke God's grace, avert punishment, and bring about reconciliation. Sacrifices were brought in many forms.

The first sacrifice mentioned in the Bible was brought by the sons of Adam and Eve: Cain offered of the fruit of the ground, Abel killed animals of his flock (Genesis 4: 3-4). God looked upon both those bringing the sacrifices and the sacrifices themselves. While He graciously accepted the sacrifice brought to Him in faith by Abel, He rejected Cain and his sacrifice (Hebrews 11: 4 and Genesis 4: 4-5). It follows that not every sacrifice is pleasing to God. The determining factor in whether He graciously accepts an offering is the attitude of the one bringing gifts to Him.

The Mosaic Law prescribed a multifaceted, strictly ritualised sacrificial service. It included burnt offerings, grain offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, and trespass offerings that were presented to God (Leviticus 1-7). Apart from the daily sacrifices for the morning and evening, the priests would, on certain days in the calendar, bring special offerings on behalf of the people. The sins of the people of Israel were thereby covered. Furthermore, there were sacrifices which individual Israelites made for various purposes, for example to atone for unconscious trespasses (Leviticus 4 et seq.) or bodily uncleanness (Leviticus 15: 14 et seq.).

All of the Old Testament sacrificial service, as determined in accordance God's will, lost its significance once and for all through Christ's sacrifice (Hebrews 8 to 10: 18).

In the New Testament, sacrifice takes on a new dimension. Thus Apostle Paul calls upon the Christians to "present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God" (Romans 12: 1). This means that one should fashion one's life in accordance with the standards of the gospel: Christians surrender themselves to God with everything they have and are.

13.2.2 Jesus Christ–the model of willingness to sacrifice Back to top

The conception of sacrifice demonstrated in Romans 12: 1 is to be seen against the backdrop that Jesus Christ gave His bodythat is Himselfout of love, as a gift and sacrifice for us (Ephesians 5: 2; Hebrews 10: 10). For believers, Jesus' sacrifice is holy and incomparable. They are aware that only Christ's sacrifice has the power of redemption.

Even though no other sacrifice can be compared with that of the Lord, His willingness to make this sacrifice serves as an example to be emulated.

Already before His suffering and death, Christ's willingness to sacrifice was revealed in His self-abasement (Philippians 2: 6-8). His devoted love was already evident in the fact that He had left the glory of His Father in heaven, come to earth, renounced His divine form, and taken on the lowliness of human nature. Apostle Paul made this the measure for every Christian's conduct: "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2: 3-4). This demands a willingness to offer and sacrifice that should also be manifest in congregational life.

13.2.3 Willingness to offer and sacrifice based on faith, gratitude, and love Back to top

A sacrifice in the Christian sense should not be considered an enforced obligation. Neither should it be made in expectation of reward, but rather freely, out of faith, out of gratitude, and out of love. If one sacrifices with such an attitude, it will no longer feel like a sacrifice, even if it should require great effort. So it is that believers often do not think of it as a burden, but rather a joy, to engage their gifts and talents for the benefit of the congregation and their neighbour.

The willingness to offer and sacrifice springs forth from love.

If the willingness to offer and sacrifice is defined by love, the believer fulfils the will of God and acts in the mind of Jesus.

Those who give of that which they have receivedbe it in material or non-material giftsthereby express their thankfulness and love. In Hebrews 13: 16 we are admonished to "do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well-pleased".

The willingness to offer and sacrifice may find its expression in many forms. Much of what takes place in congregational life is only made possible through the members' deep conviction and love for God and His work. Thus many brothers and sisters in faith donate a considerable portion of their free time, energy, and abilities in service to God and the community: many help along in the music and instruction of the Church, others take on tasks relating to the care of the church property and building, decorating the altar, and other duties. With few exceptions, ministers work in an honorary capacity. Divine services, dispensation of sacraments, acts of blessing, and funeral services are conducted free of charge. Families and sick members receive regular care. The aged, the handicapped, and those living alone are given special attention. Thereby the double commandment of love is fulfilled.

We are also admonished to do good to our brothers and sisters who find themselves in need (Galatians 6: 10). Love for our neighbour also prompts us to support others in situations of need (Matthew 25: 34-46), and to help them in times of disaster. This can also be done by donating money or other goods. The aid agencies which the Church sponsors in the context of its social commitment, and by way of which it provides emergency aid around the world, are generally financed by voluntary donations.

For New Apostolic Christians, willingness to offer and sacrifice is a matter of the heart. Believers also feel the need to express their thankfulness and love toward God in concrete gifts (sacrifices), be it in monetary form or in the form of natural produce. In so doing they can take direction from the tithe mentioned in Malachi 3: 10. Offerings are usually placed in the offering boxes set up at divine services and other Church events, or transferred to the accounts of the Church. In many regions an additional offering of thanks is brought on Thanksgiving Day.

All financial contributions are made voluntarily and mostly anonymously. Thus it is possible to cover all the expenses of the Church without levying a church tax or charging membership fees. Through their offerings, believers give thanks to God and contribute to the development and completion of His work.

With all offerings, the attitude of heart is of decisive importance. Jesus once observed "the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He also saw a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, 'Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had'" (Luke 21: 1-4).

Believers can bring a sacrifice in a broader sense, namely by devoting their own heart. This is understood to include the engagement of all gifts and talents, as well as complete trust in God. In certain situations it can therefore also be a sacrifice to subordinate one's own will under the will of God. These are spiritual sacrifices as admonished by Apostle Peter (1 Peter 2: 5). Beyond that, a great deal of time and energy is invested in the service of God and His work, and in many ways believers give up personal advantages in so doing. Ultimately everything the believer does or abstains from doing, out of love for God, is a sacrifice.

13.2.4 Sacrifice and blessing Back to top

It pleases God when we bring Him our offerings with the proper attitude, and He also associates His blessing with this. "But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work" (2 Corinthians 9: 6-8). From these words we can derive that our offerings will not always result in a tangible material blessing. Faith allows us to recognise that the sacrifices which are brought out of a pure heart attract blessing even if this blessing often remains hidden from our perception.

In the divine services, the officiant prays for God's blessing upon all those who bring offerings, as well as on that which they have offered. God not only blesses material offerings, but also offerings of time, gifts, and abilities brought for Him and His work, including the renunciation of personal advantage. The blessing of God can be experienced in earthly matters, but it is primarily of a spiritual nature. This includes the imparting of divine gifts of salvation out of the merit of Christ (Ephesians 1: 3-7).

SUMMARY Back to top

Offerings and sacrifices bring to expression worship, gratitude, devotion, and submission to God. (13.2)

No other sacrifice can be compared with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, Jesus' willingness to sacrifice is an example that calls believers to follow Him. (13.2.2)

Willingness to sacrifice springs forth from love. (13.2.3)

Believers also express their gratitude and love for God and His work in concrete gifts, be it in monetary form or in the form of natural produce. (13.2.3)

The willingness to offer and sacrifice is also expressed in congregational life when brethren in faith dedicate a substantial amount of their leisure time, energy, and talents into the service of God and the congregation without compensation. (13.2.3)

The blessing associated with offering can indeed be experienced in earthly matters, but it is primarily of a spiritual nature. (13.2.4)

13.3 Marriage and family Back to top

Marriage is the lifelong union between a man and woman desired by God, upon which His blessing rests. It also forms the foundation for the family. It is based upon a free and voluntary public expression of fidelity by both partners. Mutual love and fidelity are indispensable factors in the success of a marriage.

God's blessing is an important and valuable foundation for marriage and family life.

13.3.1 Marriage as a divine institution Back to top

A monogamous marriage is a divine institution and not only a human institution. A polygamous marriage, that is marriage with multiple spouses, is not in accordance with Christian teaching and values.

The fact that God has explicitly anchored the protection of