It is surprising that modern rites and locally-constructed services tend to reduce the petitionary element. This tends to put the focus on the human activity of making promises and downplays the need for God to act in the lives of the candidates. It suggests that baptism is merely 'a sign of profession, and mark of difference', and not an effectual sign of grace.

On this view, the baptism of infants is hardly more than a dedication to God, and the baptism of adults merely a confirmation of their commitment to Christ. However, Article 27 insists that the promises of the gospel are visibly 'signed and sealed' in baptism, faith is confirmed and grace increased 'by virtue of prayer unto God'.

The Prayer Book expresses confidence that God has answered the prayers of his people in a way that many have found uncomfortable. After the baptism, an exhortation to give thanks to God and pray for the candidates to lead the rest of their life 'according to this beginning' is preceded by the claim that they are 'regenerate and grafted into the body of Christ's Church'. This confidence is reflected in the prayer that follows, and it becomes the basis for vigorous petitions about dying to sin and living to righteousness, so that finally they may inherit God's everlasting kingdom. But is such confidence appropriate in the case of infant baptism?

Various explanations have been offered for this teaching, but the one that fits best takes account of the instruction to godparents that follows. They are to teach children about the vows made on their behalf and encourage them to lead a godly and Christian life, 'remembering always, that Baptism doth represent unto us our profession: which is to follow the example of our Saviour Christ, and to be made like unto him'. Regeneration is offered to children in baptism and prayed for with faith. Those baptised should be nurtured with the confidence that God will answer such prayer.

In An Australian Prayer Book, a pastorally helpful alternative is provided, with a more general expression of praise reflecting 1 Peter 1:3, and a request for God to finish the work of salvation begun in the candidates reflecting Philippians 1:6:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus for birth from above and for the remission of sins. May almighty God, according to his gracious promise, finish the work of salvation begun in you, bringing you to the joyful resurrection and to the fulfilment of his eternal kingdom.

The service concludes with further prayer for the candidates and their sponsors. The reality that baptism represents 'washing from sin and regeneration by the Spirit' needs to be grasped by faith and its implications passed on to children as they come to understand what has been promised on their behalf and received in their name.


Copyright © 2020 Better Gatherings. All Right Reserved.
Powered By Joomla Perfect