Monday, March 27, 2017

The Flood Prayer

The Flood Prayer

Tune: Genevan 103

1. Almighty God, eternal heav'nly Father,
in righteous judgment you destroyed with water
the unbelieving and rebellious world
but saved believer Noah and his fam'ly,
protected them and showed to them your mercy.
To them your gracious love you did unfurl.

2. You drowned the stubborn Pharaoh and his army
but led your people through the raging Red Sea.
They walked on dry ground as you led the way.
In ages past you signified our washing,
how you delivered us from all that's threat'ning.
To us your cov'nant love you do display.

3. We therefore pray that, in your boundless mercy,
you will, through grace, include this child, most kindly,
and through your Spirit make him one with Christ
who died and rose again for his salvation,
who paid his debts and earned him full remission.
Now may he walk with Christ the sacrificed.

4. We pray that he may follow Christ his Saviour
and bear his cross in faith and hope with fervour.
We pray, console him right until the end.
May he appear before the throne of judgment
with confidence in Jesus Christ's atonement
for in your love this child you did befriend.

5. All this we ask through Christ our Lord and Saviour,
your only Son who is our one Redeemer
whose love for us is boundless, without end.
He and the Holy Spirit are together
with you one God, who lives and reigns forever.
We pray to you our God, Amen, Amen.

(Here it is set to SATB)


The prayer we pray before someone is baptized, whether child or adult, is well known and is called “The Flood Prayer” because of the references to the Great Flood and to the crossing of the Red Sea. The words are familiar:
Almighty, eternal God, in your righteous judgment you punished the unbelieving and unrepentant world with the flood, but in your great mercy saved and protected the believer Noah and his family. You drowned the obstinate Pharaoh and all his host in the Red Sea, but led your people Israel through the midst of the sea on dry ground—by which baptism was signified....
This prayer goes back to the Medieval, pre-Reformation, church and is the oldest part of our liturgical forms as found in Book of Praise. The Reformation did not do away with the good elements found in Medieval liturgy. This prayer was maintained by Martin Luther in Germany, Leo Jud and Ulrich Zwingli in Switzerland, Olevianus in the Palatinate, and Peter Datheen in The Netherlands.(1) Today this prayer is also found, with various modifications, in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran liturgies. It is a truly catholic prayer.

The references to the Flood and the Red Sea are typological, i.e., whereas they are first understood to refer to events in sacred history they are also taken as pointing to something else in the future—in this case, to baptism. The Apostle Peter (1 Pet. 3:19-21)(2) interpreted the story of the Flood in a typological way and the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 10:1,2)(3) understood the story of Israel crossing the Red Sea in a similar way. Both Peter and Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said God was signifying baptism by way of the Flood and the Red Sea.

I set the hymn to the Genevan tune for Psalm 103 since that Psalm speaks so beautifully of God's covenant faithfulness to parents and their children. As the metrical version has it:
God’s mercy, everlasting and unfailing,
his righteousness, for evermore prevailing,
will rest on those who worship him with awe.
God will be faithful through the generations
to children’s children who with dedication
uphold his cov'nant and obey his laws.


1. G. Van Rongen, Our Reformed Church Service Book (Neerlandia: Inheritance Publications, 1995), p. 184.

2."... they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

3. "For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea....”