“And she made a vow, saying, ‘O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life…’” - 1 Samuel 1:11
As a Baptist, I have rejected the practice of child baptism, since it is taught nowhere in Scripture. My Systematic Theology professor, Roger Nicole, used to say that paedobaptists (those who advocate baptism of children) use three types of Scripture to defend their views: 1) those that mention infants but not baptism; 2) those that mention baptism but not infants; and 3) those that mention neither one! In other words, there are no passages of Scripture that teach that it is the duty of Christian parents in the New Covenant to baptize their infants. Rather, the New Testament doctrine of believer’s baptism is taught and exemplified in multiple places.
However, many Baptist churches have a tradition of child dedication, in which newborns are dedicated by their parents to the Lord in the presence of the congregation. We are ready to admit that this practice is nowhere taught in the New Testament either. It is rather a tradition like many others in church life. No one who takes part in child dedication asserts it to be an ordinance of the church, something Christ has commanded us to do. It is simply an opportunity for Christian parents to commit themselves to raise this child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4), and for the congregation to commit themselves to pray for and help the parents as they do so.
The example of Hannah’s dedication of Samuel to the service of the Lord is a beautiful pattern, and many Christian parents are mindful of it as they stand before the Lord and the congregation when they dedicate their babies. Hannah had been barren and was severely vexed in her spirit because of her inability to conceive children. To make matters worse, she was one of two wives married to the same man, and her rival provoked her mercilessly about her barrenness. So, she went to the tabernacle and cried out to the Lord for a son. She pleaded with him and promised that if He would send her a son, she would dedicate him to the Lord’s service all the days of his life.
God heard Hannah’s prayer, and granted her the birth of Samuel, and Samuel was indeed dedicated to the Lord all the days of his life. His mother actually took him to live with Eli the priest at the tabernacle after he was weaned. This great sacrifice the Lord noted well, and blessed Hannah with three more sons and two daughters after she gave Samuel up to the Lord.
"Without this ongoing dedication in prayer, however, a one-time baby dedication ceremony is empty ritualism."
As Christian parents, we can do no better than to pray consistently to the Lord for our children. We should pray that they would be converted early in life and have all that much more time available for His service. We should pray for their future spouses and for their children. We should pray that God would give each one of our children a fruitful ministry for the Kingdom of Christ, one that will have immense eternal significance. We should pray that they would be powerful in fighting sin and would be characterized by personal holiness. We should pray for their knowledge of the Bible, that their minds would be saturated in the Scripture. And we should pray that they would live openly courageous lives for the glory of God in an increasingly crooked and depraved generation.
This should be the true “dedication” Christian parents do for their children every day: a dedication in prayer. Without this ongoing dedication in prayer, however, a one-time baby dedication ceremony is empty ritualism.