Posted by: reformedmusings | December 27, 2009

Reformed Baptismal Prayer

The way we perform baptisms in our church, the pastor first presents the Scriptural basis for covenant baptism. Then the family comes forward with the child, and the worship elder brings the water. After the pastor asks the BCO questions of the parents and the congregation, he baptizes the covenant child. Then the ruling elder prays for the child.

I have a high regard for the prayers used early in the Reformation. They drip with solid theology, plus are absent of modern errors and compromises. I searched the Internet for an appropriate baptismal prayer, but didn’t find anything I wanted to use.

Then I turned to one of my favorite historical documents – The Directory for the Publick Worship of God. It was coordinated with the Divines across the Reformed churches of Scotland and England, then passed by the Parliament of the Kingdom of Scotland in 1645 to provide guidance for Reformed worship in the Presbyterian Church. It’s stated purpose was to ensure uniform, sound doctrine and practice in the Presbyterian church.

The Directory offers a lot of great content, including services for baptism and the Lord’s Supper. An excellent prayer of dedication is embedded in the baptismal service. I modified it to address our heavenly Father directly rather than indirectly in the grammatical third person of the original prayer. I made a few other changes as well. Here’s the final version that I used today, made generic for the name and sex of the baby:

Gracious heavenly Father,

We acknowledge with all thankfulness that you are true and faithful in keeping your covenant promises made in your mercy: That you are good and gracious, not only counting us among your saints, but are also pleased to grant our children this singular token and badge of your love in Christ: That, in your truth and special providence, you daily bring some into your church, to partake of your great benefits, purchased by the blood of your dear Son, for the continuance and increase of his church.

We pray that you would daily confirm more and more this your unspeakable favor: That you would receive [baby’s name] now baptized and solemnly entered into the household of faith, into your covenant, and remember him/her with the favor that you show to your people; that you would teach him/her by your word and Spirit, and make his/her baptism effectual to him/her, and so uphold him/her by your divine power and grace, that by faith he/she may prevail against the world, the flesh, and the devil, until in the end he/she obtains a full and final victory, and so be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I believe that the Directory’s prayer captures the truth that baptism doesn’t save in and of itself, but must be made effectual through regeneration by the Spirit, usually later in life (WCF 28.6). After all, we are saved by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone, and that faith is a gift of God (Eph 2:8, 9). We are not saved by water. This clear doctrine of Scripture casts aside a host of errors, not least the current error of Federal Vision which imparts some “temporary” saving graces to the unregenerate in the visible church (contrast WLC #62 & 63 vs. #64-66).

I post this prayer in the hope that some will find it useful.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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