I am writing from the Beautiful Tampa bay area which was home to Jean and Woodrow Hill.
This last Thanksgiving my Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church family lost a dear patriarch and friend, when Woodrow Hill passed away at 95. I had been friends with Woodrow and his wife Jean, ever since I moved to Tampa ten years ago, but I still learned some intriguing things about him, after his death, that I never knew before. Do you find like me, that you always seem to learn something you never knew about someone after they died? Oh, I knew Woodrow was a man of God. Always a cheerful smile on his face, even when I would go see him at the hospital, or when he would be delivering bread to the church’s community service center. Woodrow and his wife Jean would always tell me they were praying for me and my ministry. That means so much to me. It also means a lot to me when people comment on my blog posts and tell me they are praying for me or even leave a prayer as a comment. It helps to know I am not alone in this spiritual warfare. However, it wasn’t until he died, and I came over to his home, to visit with the family, that I learned some amazing things.
Woody’s stepdaughter said he became her daddy when she was 12. He was the best dad a girl could ever have, and she does not have one unpleasant memory after her mom married. The daughter (she never felt like a stepdaughter) went on to talk about Woodrow’s prayer life. 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 right there that you are in.” The mother and daughter then both told me that the night before he died he was up all night praying for all of his church family, blood family, and neighbors until 6 in the morning! 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. At first I thought to myself, “Wow! He really appreciated my ministry!” Later as I recalled the incident, I thought, “All they said was that he prayed for me. They didn’t say how. He may have been praying for me to repent and be saved!”
I look back, and I wonder, why did he pray all night the night before he died? Why was he mentioning every soul he ever met? Did he have a premonition that he was about to die, and wanted to say one last, long prayer, not for himself, but for everyone else before he died? This reminds me of only one other person-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. Woodrow and Jesus were alike, as 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.
I believe Woodrow was a true disciple of Jesus, and was able to live the selfless life that Jesus lived because He prayed the selfless prayers that Jesus prayed. I don’t think we can expect to live the way Jesus lived in the multitude, until we pray the way Jesus prayed when He was all alone. In Matthew 14:1-32 we read about Jesus walking on the water, while Peter at first walked on the water and then stumbled and fell. Earlier, in that chapter we saw Jesus spending all night in prayer. I wonder, if Peter had prayed the way Jesus had prayed the night before, could he have walked the way Jesus walked on the water? Would His prayer life kept his eyes focused on Jesus instead of the waves, and those watching him? 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 does something remarkable that people thought only Jesus could do. Peter raises a community services leader back to life! Dorcas, the Christian Church’s first community services leader had died. Peter went over and raised her back to life! Remember me mentioning, how Woodrow delivered bread to the community services center? One day he will be raised back to life as well. This story tells me how precious community services leaders and workers are to God! I don’t read anywhere in my New Testament about a conference president, pastor or Bible Worker being raised back to life, but God raised a community services leader back to life! They must be very special to Him. Now look with me 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
When Peter fell in the waves, no record of Peter praying first is mentioned. Of course when he cried out for Jesus to save him, that was a prayer which Jesus immediately answered! But here we see Peter praying the way Jesus prayed before He worked the miracles that Jesus worked. Peter could do the works that Jesus did, once He prayed the prayers that Jesus prayed.
The night before Jesus died He was up all night praying, and asked His disciples to pray with him, but when His disciples fell asleep He quickly excused their humanity, saying the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. While men in their prime of life fell asleep trying to pray, 2,000 years later, Woodrow, a 95 year -old man prayed through the night. Woodrow was a true disciple of Jesus, doing something Jesus asked His disciple to do 2,000 years ago, which they did not. Oh how precious Woodrow’s prayer must have been to Jesus!
It’s no mystery how Woodrow was able to leave such a legacy behind for his family. Woodrow was able to live the way Jesus lived, because he prayed the way Jesus prayed.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson on prayer and Discipleship here.