Victory Over Violence – Intercessors for America

She was climbing the stairs out of a New York City subway station, leaning on her cane. She and a man became engaged in an argument, and words spun out of control; he wrenched her cane from her and then used it to beat her viciously about the head and body, for some three minutes. (We know the beating lasted that long, because it was filmed — though no one intervened.)

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A Frontier Airlines flight was forced to land 700 miles from its destination because of a fistfight that broke out onboard between two female passengers.

A father in Maryland was beaten to death by two adults and three teens who were seeking his 14-year-old son after a schoolyard dispute over $30.

These are just three of the all-too-many incidents of brutality that have scrolled across news screens in the summer of 2023.

Some started with a verbal assault or a bump while passing in an aisle, but quickly escalated into outsized rage resulting in a maiming or even death. Distressingly, much of the violence is launched by small groups of two or three people who pile on a single victim. Even as I write this, an aggressive driver has shot a couple because he wanted their parking spot at a Home Depot in Brooklyn, N.Y., while another couple knifed a man outside a Whole Foods store on New York City’s East Side of Manhattan.

Ironically, in New York City, where I live, some crime statistics have fallen from 2022. But across America, crime rates still outstrip pre-pandemic levels. In New York City, a small but telling poll reports that more than 40% believe crime is the worst it has ever been.

New Yorkers are not the only ones fearing increased crime. Across the nation, perceptions of danger are increasing. Depending upon who you talk to, the reasons cited range from increased numbers of violent perpetrators, to the availability of guns, to “stand your ground” laws, to sensational media coverage of violent episodes. Often the cited causes are split along political party lines.

My husband, Rich, also a contributing writer for IFA, and I live not far from Times Square, which is usually filled with a dizzying array of tourists traveling haplessly among mentally ill drug addicts, professional criminals deploying children to pickpocket, and gang members waving guns around. As an intercessor, I am particularly sensitive to spiritual influences as well — demonic spirits of fear and violence are thick in the spiritual atmosphere here. Undergirding all of the evil is a great idolatry of self. The love of self is more than a sin; at its worst, it is a demonic dominion of considerable power.

Clearly, we have a call to war against the demonic entities we discern. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ I regularly bind, gag, cripple, blind, and render unable to operate all demonic spirits, dominions, and principalities of fear, violence, hatred, malice, and whatever others the Lord may bring to my mind. I complete the work by casting all such spirits into the abyss, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by asking the Lord to fill all the vacated spaces with His Holy Spirit.

Additionally, I often ask the Lord to dispatch angels to secure the ground and to continue the battle as other demons struggle to regain the lost territory. Because the battle is the Lord’s, I know this warfare is effective.

But “pre-believers” are constantly walking through our world, carrying their sin, fear, and expressions of violence. Because they do not yet know the Lord, they are helpless against these forces. Their sin opens the door to the devil, granting permission for evil to operate. When you have millions in this condition, you have a spiritual morass — a true “sin city” and Satan’s playground.

In the face of this, I have been tempted to feel that the battle is futile. Instead, though, I have turned to the Lord and asked Him for His strategy to overcome this spirit of violence we are seeing in America.

“Please, Lord,” I’ve begged. “Give us an effective strategy.”

Never one for a half-way solution, the Lord has directed me to a somewhat surprising passage of scripture: John 12:20–26. In prayer, the Lord made clear that He was emphasizing the question the gentile Greeks had brought to the disciple Philip” “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Here’s the full passage:

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”

This passage comes at a critical point in John’s Gospel: Jesus has entered Jerusalem for the Passover feast that will precede the events of His passion week. He was met with acclaim and rejoicing by those gathered for the celebration.

This incident of Greek gentiles wanting to meet with Jesus marks a turning point in His ministry. His salvation ministry will now reach beyond the Hebrew people, out to the entire world. Accordingly, then, Jesus begins to speak of the violence He will endure in order to secure eternal life for all who will receive Him as Lord and Savior.

Life for millions will spring from that violence — a brutal death on the cross.

Jesus uses the powerful agrarian example of the wheat seed to create a word picture of how the Lord will redeem a world of violence.

The Greek word psyche, translated into English as “life” in the passage above, embraces body, soul, “self,” if you will. Jesus is calling His own people to put their “self” to death. The love of self is what spawns sin — and the excessive  response to other people’s offenses against us. Genesis 4:23 shows this clearly: Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me.”

Lamech suffers, as do all unredeemed people, from a fatal focus on his own welfare, his own desires, his own will. Only the destruction — the death — of self can free Lamech and others from the prison of self-focus. And that death is achieved by joining Jesus in His death.

This is where Jesus calls His disciples and intercessors. We must follow Him out of the self, through the cross, and into His resurrection life. This process, painful and slow, is in my view wondrous. We crucify ourselves and our idolatry of self and receive instead the abundant life of Jesus Christ. We join in His life more freely, more completely as we yield up our desires, our choices, our wills to the Holy One.

When the Lord pointed me to this scripture as heaven’s response to the spirit of violence, I admit that I struggled. I sort of wanted to present to the IFA intercessors a three-point prayer plan: bing, bang, bong.

Instead, our call is higher.

We have the opportunity not just to say the prayer, but to be the prayer. We are invited into the messy but effective strategy the Lord Himself used to redeem violence. As John the Baptist said of Jesus and himself, respectively: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

The Lord is calling us to show the violent, the lost, the self-absorbed ones Jesus in us. They must see Jesus’ compassion in us, and experience the presence of the living God through us.

Join me in praying now:

Father, we lay down our selves before the cross. We desire to enter into Jesus’ death and to be raised once again with Him. Let us bear much lasting fruit. We choose Your plan — which is more thorough, more effective — to eliminate the violence of self and sin. We will do the warfare, binding in the name of Jesus the spirits of violence and toppling the principality of “self” from America. All these we consign to the abyss, in Jesus’ name. Fill all resulting vacancies with Your Holy Spirit. But victory over violence is won by the cross; bring Your warriors forth to exchange their “selves” for Jesus’ life. In Jesus’ name. Amen and amen.

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New York City–based Joyce Swingle is an intercessor and a contributing writer for IFA. With her husband, Rich, also a contributing writer for IFA, Joyce shares the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world through theater, speaking, writing, and film. Prior to going into full-time ministry, Joyce worked for about 20 major magazines and now works in pastoral ministry and Christian counseling. Read more about Joyce’s work at Photo Credit: Maxim Hopman on Unsplash.