Last November I lost a dear patriarch from my church, and friend, Woodrow (Woody) Hill who passed away at 95. I had been a friend of Woody and his wife Jean for ten years.
Woody was a man of God and always had a cheerful smile, even when I visited him at the hospital or met him delivering bread to the church community service center.
Woody’s stepdaughter said he became her daddy when she was 12, and that he was the best dad a girl could ever have. She never felt like a stepdaughter. She does not have even one unpleasant memory of him. As she sat in her daddy’s chair, she told me “he would be up all night praying and, by listening to the way he prayed you would think Jesus must be sitting in that chair.”
Woody and his wife Jean often reminded me they were praying for my ministry and me. It was encouraging to know that I was supported in prayer. However, it wasn’t until Woody died and I went to his home to visit with the family that I learned the story of his last prayer.
Both mother and daughter told me that the night before he died he was praying for his family, church, and neighbors until 6 am! They told me he mentioned my name in his prayer, and it sent chills down my spine to know that this godly Patriarch had prayed for me in his last prayer. It felt good to know how much Woody appreciated my ministry, but later as I recalled the conversation, I remembered they said he prayed for me, but did not say how. He may have been praying for me to repent and be saved!
I wondered, why he prayed all that night before he died? Why was he mentioning every soul he ever met? He prayed one last, long prayer, not for himself, but for others before he died? This reminds me of Jesus! As He hung on the cross, He told John to care for His mother. He prayed for His Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him. Woody and Jesus were alike; while they both faced death, their thoughts and prayers were only for those around them. Woody, like Jesus, did not waste his last breath on himself, but used those last few precious breaths to bless others one last time. Woody lived the selfless life that Jesus lived because He prayed the selfless prayers that Jesus prayed.
In Matthew 14:1-32 we read the story of Jesus walking on the water, and Peter’s failed attempt at the same activity. It is worth noting that Jesus had spent all night in prayer. Maybe if Peter had learned the power of prayer and was focused on Jesus he too could have walked successfully on water? While walking on the water, Jesus was using no special powers that were not also available to Peter.
Later, in Acts 9:36-41 Peter raised Dorcas (called Tabitha), the Christian Church’s first community services leader, back to life! Look at what Peter did before he raised her to life. (Of course it was the Father, not Peter doing the work, just as Jesus said He did nothing of Himself, but it was the Father doing the works. See John 5:19-21)
But Peter asked them all to leave the room; then he knelt and prayed. Turning to the body he said, “Get up, Tabitha.” And she opened her eyes! When she saw Peter, she sat up! Acts 9:40 NLT
Here we see the reborn Peter praying the way Jesus prayed before performing the miracles that Jesus performed. Peter had learned the importance of prayer. By the way, this miracle demonstrates how important church community service leaders are to God. Woody was helping with community services too, and I know that made him very precious to God, just like Dorcas. God will raise Woody back to life one day too.
The night before Jesus died He prayed all night, for his disciples, those that believed and those who would believe in the future. Two millennia later, Woody, a 95 year-old man facing death, prayed through the night for family, church and friends. Woody was a true disciple of Jesus, doing something Jesus did. How precious Woody’s prayer must have been to Jesus! Especially since Jesus’ other disciples fell asleep on Him in Gethsemane.
It’s no mystery how Woody was able to leave such a legacy behind for his family. Woodrow Hill was able to live the way Jesus lived, because he prayed the way Jesus prayed.