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Lord, on this “commencement” day, let there be a beginning of my life. In the days of darkness, be my Light, so that in turn I can radiate your truth and your message of love, hope, and joy. In the days of blandness and of blahs, Lord, be my Salt, so that in turn I can fend off the corruption, the staleness, the mediocrity around me. In the days when I am flat on my back or fall flat on my face, Lord, be my Leaven, so that not only can I rise again, but also raise the downhearted to the celebration of your Love. And Lord, thank You, for the school years, for the talents I received.
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The teen who stepped up and led a prayer at a high school graduation ceremony when a woman collapsed in the stands will give the opening prayer when the Alabama House of Representatives goes into session on Wednesday, June 3.
“It’ll be fun,” Crawford told AL.com this morning. “It’ll be a new experience.”
Crawford works at Sam’s Club in Trussville and plans to attend Auburn University in Montgomery in the fall. He hopes to major in both communications and political science. He’s interested in politics.
“It’s part of making a difference and being a positive influence for the world, the country, making laws that will benefit the state,” Crawford said.
Although some people think he’s a natural preacher, he’s not sure what career he’ll pursue.
“I want to be it all,” Crawford said. “No limits. Whatever God has in store, I’ll walk in it.”
Crawford’s actions at graduation impressed his principal and his pastor, but didn’t surprise them.
“He’s a leader,” said Clay-Chalkville High School Principal Michael Lee. “He’s a motivated kid.”
Crawford has provided inspiration around the world as the video of his prayer, recorded by the Trussville Tribune, has been viewed more than 628,000 times on YouTube.
“We’re very proud of him,” said the Rev. Thomas Beavers, pastor of New Rising Star Baptist Church in East Lake, which Crawford attends. “He’s a great kid.”
Crawford comes by his oratorical gift naturally, Beavers said. “I guess it’s something God gave him,” Beavers said. “He’s one of the most genuine kids you’ll ever meet. He’s always been a very serious kid.”
Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, called Clay-Chalkville High School to ask the principal if Crawford would be interested in offering a prayer for the legislators as they start their session. Crawford is from Garrett’s district and Garrett was impressed by the video.
“I admired him for doing it,” Garrett said. “He was very poised, and also I thought it was very heartfelt and genuine. It was just a really good thing in our community, and I was really proud of him. I wanted to meet him and shake his hand. I admired him.”
Crawford’s prayer was powerful and inspirational, Garrett said.
“A person who can rise to the occasion like he did … obviously – it is not an act,” Garrett said. “I think it was very inspiring to anyone who watched it.”
Garrett said he understands Crawford is interested in politics, and he looks forward to introducing him to state government.
Scott Buttram, publisher of The Trussville Tribune, said Lee had called the newspaper concerned about weather moving the May 21 graduation ceremony indoors and asked if the Tribune could do a live-stream video of the event.
The graduation went as scheduled in the football stadium and was live-streamed. There were technical difficulties that interrupted the transmission at times, Buttram said, but the transmission was back online by the time of Crawford’s impromptu prayer. Crawford, who had been voted by his classmates to do the invocation, had already prayed once when a woman in the audience collapsed with a seizure. Librarian Shannon Petty encouraged Crawford to go back to the podium. This time, he prayed spontaneously.
“Everybody can I have your attention real quick?” Crawford said. “We don’t know what’s going on, but we will pray. We know that prayer is power, and that God is able. Let’s pray. Father God, we thank you for this day, Lord. We pray right now that whatever is going on, you will fix it, God. We pray that you will heal it, God. We pray that you will redeem it, God. We pray that you will deliver it, God. Because we know that you are a God who knows how to make a way. And in the name of Jesus we declare and decree in the name of Jesus that whatever is going on shall be fixed, because you are a God who is a fixer. You are a God who is a healer. Jehovah God, Jehovah-jireh, Jehovah-nissi, Jehovah-shalom. Fix it, Jesus. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
After the spontaneous prayer, the crowd cheered and the ceremony continued.
“The live stream is going, I’ve got burgers frying on the grill,” Buttram said. “He starts the prayer. My wife hears the prayer. Our 8-year-old turned off the cartoons. I had tears in my eyes. It was so moving.”
The Trussville Tribune put a video clip of the prayer up on YouTube even before the graduation ceremony ended. “It was a great local story,” Buttram said.
Turns out, it was a great national story too. On Memorial Day, Crawford appeared on the national TV news show Fox and Friends. He said all the glory should go to God.
Overseas media outlets also picked up the story.
“He’s given glory where it’s due,” Lee said. “If anybody can handle this, he can.”
The attention to the prayer was even more compelling in light of controversies in recent years over prayer at graduation. “If I had done that, we’d be in a different situation,” Lee said. “We can’t lead the prayer. It had to be a student leading it.”
Lee noted that the woman who had a seizure received immediate medical attention and is doing fine now.
Crawford has been bombarded with attention. “He’s a popular guy right now,” Lee said. “If there is any kid his age who can handle it, he can.”
Lee said he’s glad to see positive attention to a student who is both a scholar and an athlete. “He’s very well-rounded,” Lee said. “He plays baseball. He’s a good kid. We have so many good kids, and I’m glad to see good kids get attention.”
Crawford said he was on the debate team and on the Varsity baseball team for two years, mostly as a pitcher, playing some as second base and outfield. He had a 3.8 grade point average. “It could have been higher,” he said. “My freshman year messed me up. It was time to get serious. I worked hard.”
Crawford said he has been doing public speaking since his freshman year, at schools and for church youth events. He took part in the student-led Impact Ministry Club, in which students met before classes to pray.
“I’ve done prayer meetings at school,” Crawford said. “We’ve had a lot of tragedies.”
During the 2012 tornado that destroyed homes near Clay-Chalkville High School, students played an active role in helping residents.
“After the tornado, everyone rallied together,” Crawford said. “We went house to house. It was a wild night. There were many people at houses helping. Clay, Pinson and Trussville rallied together.”
AL.com writer Erin Edgemon contributed to this story.