Can you name a place in the Bible that received its name because some prayed there? When you think of a biblical judge (or leader in the book of Judges) who was a prayer warrior, who comes to mind? Gideon might, because his account begins with a prolonged conversation with God. But the stories of several judges include no prayers or allusion to calling on the name of the Lord. The Song of Deborah and Barak concludes with a prayer and the final judge, Samuel, includes several mentions of prayer. Another judge’s story includes two prayers, each of which can be described as a call for fire that requests God to act now at a specific location to achieve a specific purpose. This judge thus is a prayer warrior. His name was Samson.
Prayer probably does not come first to mind when you think of Samson. Movies have been made about him, but they did not focus on his prayers (although his final prayer is the climax of his story). Most people remember Samson’s legendary strength and his long hair or think of him as a “wild and crazy guy” obsessed with finding the wrong woman to love. His first recorded prayer came as a consequence of a frustrated quest for love. After his fiancé had been given to another man to be his wife, Samson had burned Philistine fields and followed that with a vicious massacre of Philistines after his would-have-been father-in-law and wife were put to death because they had brought on Samson’s revenge (Judges 14:20-15:8). The Philistines then demanded that Israelites hand over Samson to be punished, which the Israelites did after conferring with Samson. Near a place called Lehi, the bound Samson broke free from the ropes that bound him, grabbed a “fresh jawbone of a donkey” lying near by and struck down a thousand men at what became known as Jawbone Hill (Ramath Lehi).
Twenty-four years ago this past weekend, I ran a 26.2 mile race. When I finished the marathon, I was so dehydrated that my vision began fading in and out. A volunteer led me to the first aid tent, where I gulped down two liters of water in the next forty-five minutes before I was able to walk back to my hotel. Samson likewise was dehydrated after his prolonged battle alone against at least a thousand men seeking to kill him. So he sent up a call for fire message to God:
“Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the Lord, ‘You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” (Judges 15:18)
God responded by opening up a spring of water in a nearby “hollow place” (a depression in the ground?). Samson’s call for fire had been heard and God had responded promptly and decisively. The passage concludes:
“When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi. Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines” (Judges 15:19b-20).
Verse nineteen answers the question I asked to begin this post. En Hakkore means “caller’s spring.” It was the place where Samson, a leader of Israel, called to the Lord. His prayer for hydration was a prayer for his survival. He had prayed in fear that he would die and that his body would be desecrated and defiled by his enemies. God heard his prayer. Samson is hardly a moral example to follow, but his prayer and another recorded later reveal that he trusted God. He believed that God could and would act to save his people in desperate times. The book of Judges records what was on the whole a spiritually desolate era in Israel’s history. Samson’s prayer at the “Caller’s Spring” reveals that faith remained in Israel in the most unlikely of spiritual heroes.
The occasions that prompt us to pray don’t have be the need for world peace or answers to a worldwide pandemic. Just as the model prayer that Jesus taught his disciples included a request for “our daily bread,” so we pray for what we need to live just as Samson prayed for water when he was dehydrated. He prayed in a moment of personal physical crisis. He prayed and God heard him.
- Quotes from the Bible are from the New International Version 2011
God who revives and restores, we pray that you will hear our prayers for healing during this time of pandemic, civil unrest, and political strife. Give us the physical strength and health that we need to continue. Strengthen our faith even as you reveal to us our own weaknesses that prevent us from serving you well. May we remember in the times of our deepest need as Samson did, that you are the God who sees and who hears those who trust and call out to you. Hear our prayer. In Jesus’ name, amen.