The 1662 Prayer Book places a series of four short prayers follows at this point:
- That the old Adam in this Child may be so buried that the new man may be raised up in him.
- That all carnal or sinful affections may die and all things belonging to the Spirit may grow.
- That he may have power and strength to have victory over the devil, the world, and the flesh.
- That whoever is dedicated to God may also be ensued with heavenly virtues and be everlastingly rewarded.
The first of these four was altered in the American Church by 1928, and even further altered by 1962 in Canada. The American 1979 Book, finally, replaced these with a litany of brief prayers, the format of which has been retained in the current Prayer Book, but the content is considerably improved.
Seven petitions now stand in the Litany for the Candidates, the first marked as optional as it applies specifically to infants and young children. The third petition echoes the fourth of the traditional prayers, the fourth petition echoes the first and second traditional prayers, and the sixth and seventh petitions are also akin to the fourth traditional prayer. The rest of the litany carries an emphasis on the candidates’ new life as members of the Body of Christ.
Where many traditional prayers emphasize the immediate or permanent effect of Holy Baptism, this litany focuses on the anticipated fruit of the Sacrament that the candidate(s) should develop over time.
That these children may come to confess their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
We beseech you to hear us, Good Lord.
First, when it is infants or young children being baptized, we pray that they would take up that good confession themselves. This prayer is offered in line with the earlier exhortation to raise the children in the faith and bring them to the Bishop for Confirmation when they are ready.
That all these Candidates may continue in the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship,
in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers.
Second, we pray for the candidates to continue in the Church’s life of worship. This is in opposition to the sad trend in some places where Baptism or Confirmation end up being treated like a graduation and the candidates soon fade away.
That they may walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which they have been called,
ever growing in faith and all heavenly virtues.
Third, an appeal for a life of Christian ethics and virtue is made. Both child and adult need to continue to grow in faith and virtue, the reformation of life is always an ongoing process.
That they may persevere in resisting evil,
and, whenever they fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.
Fourth, we pray specifically for the struggle against evil and for continual repentance. Regular participation in the liturgy directs every worshiper to do this, but it is a spiritual discipline that ultimately must take place within the heart of each believer.
That they may proclaim by word and deed the Good News of God in Christ Jesus
to a lost and broken world.
Fifth, the mission of the Church comes to the fore as we pray that the candidate(s) will proclaim the Gospel through both word and deed.
That as living members of the Body of Christ,
they may grow up in every way into him who is the head.
Sixth, weaving together the first three petitions, the liturgy now directs us to pray for the candidates’ membership in the Body of Christ, quoting Ephesians 4:15.
That, looking to Jesus, they may run with endurance the race set before them,
and at the last receive the unfading crown of glory.
Lastly, referencing Hebrews 12:1, we pray for the eternal perseverance of the candidates in the “race” of faith.
It should be noted that the rubric, Other petitions may be added, allows for the congregation to offer their own prayers, or the minister to include the traditional prayers from the historic Prayer Books.
The Flood Prayer
When Martin Luther was revising the Roman liturgy for the German Protestant churches in the 1520’s he abbreviated the baptismal service twice, streamlining its attention upon the baptismal act and the grace of God therein. But one thing he added to the liturgy is what came to known as the “Flood Prayer,” which carried over into the English Prayer Books in 1552. By 1662 the prayer had taken a distinct, slightly shorter, form from Luther’s version. The first American Prayer Book rendered it an either/or option with the Prayer for the Good Effect of Baptism that followed it in the 1662 liturgy, and by 1928 the Flood Prayer was gone entirely. Its reappearance in the 2019 Prayer Book, albeit in a shortened form, is therefore a retrieval of prior tradition lost in North America.
This is a short version of a prayer known as the Flood Prayer. Drawing from 1 Peter 3, it depicts the Flood in the days of Noah as an archetype foreshadowing this Sacrament of Regeneration wherein the sinful Adam is drowned. (Additional references to the crossing of the Red Sea and the Baptism of Jesus are omitted in this version, though these images and types appear in other contexts within the Prayer Book.) Baptism, this prayer further affirms, washes and sanctifies the candidates through the power of the Holy Spirit, and delivers them from death akin to how the Ark delivered Noah and his family from the Flood. Indeed, the image of the Church as the Ark is enshrined in other terms: the primary section of a church interior where the people stand or sit is called the nave, derived from the Latin word navis – ship! The prayer concludes, obliquely referencing Ephesians 3:17, with a desire for the eternal salvation of the candidate(s) as they “pass through the turbulent floods of this troublesome life”. The worshiper is thus reminded that the Sacrament of Holy Baptism is not a novel concept in the New Testament, but an expression of the promise of God that has its echoes as far back as Noah’s generation. Much less is Baptism a “work” done by man, but it is God himself who works, who saves us through this physical enactment of his ancient promise.
For more on the Flood Prayer, click here and read this!