BALTIMORE, Md. (BP) — Michael Crawford was standing in line to board an airplane when he saw the breaking news of Baltimore’s riots on the airport television. Immediately, he went to the flight counter and told the attendant that he couldn’t board the plane.
Instead of going to a church planting conference in Florida, the pastor of Baltimore’s Freedom Church knew God was calling him to stay in Baltimore — and pray.
The flight attendant, responding in tears, confirmed the call. Her husband was a lieutenant in the Baltimore Police Department. Crawford committed to pray for her husband by name.
What began as peaceful protests in Baltimore over the death of 25-year-old Baltimore native Freddie Gray erupted April 27 into pockets of violence, looting and fires. As tensions have risen, groups have injured more than a dozen police officers, destroyed businesses and shut down city operations. The National Guard is now on the scene, according to media reports, and has been able to help stabilize the situation.
“I wanted to go downtown and get in the mix, but God told me explicitly that I was to go and pray,” Crawford, who also serves as team strategist for church multiplication for the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network, said.
As he departed the airport, Crawford issued a video invitation through his smart phone, declaring he was opening the doors of Freedom Church and inviting all the pastors and church members in the area who wanted to pray.
“Satan wants our city, and he can’t have it,” Crawford said. “We were born for this hour, and we will fight this the right way — on our knees.”
Pointing to messages from fellow Baltimore pastor Ellis Prince and longtime activist John Perkins at a recent Unplugged Conference held at Freedom Church, Crawford said, “God was trying to tell us something, and it’s patently clear to me. I am calling on all the churches in Baltimore … get on your knees for Baltimore tonight.”
He added, “This is our time to shine. We’ve got to move. We’ve got to intercede. We’ve got to stand in the gap for this moment. Don’t huddle up and do the Christian thing. Let’s pray, and let’s get up in the mix.”
Crawford later noted “God had some people on the front lines, and others were in the ‘boiler room’ praying” (a nod to Charles Spurgeon’s description of prayer).
The church hosted three hours of prayer the evening after rioting first broke out. They held another evening of prayer April 28.
“We know there are principalities and powers of darkness all around us, but God is greater,” he said, acknowledging the power of prayer.
“Things start[ed] calming down in the city. The National Guard was called in to assist. And gang members were meeting with other clergy in the city,” he said. “I believe God heard and answered our prayers.”