Today in church history, we celebrate the life of the disciple Bartholomew. Not much is known about Bartholomew outside of an instance in John’s Gospel where he is called by another name. Disciples had multiple names. For instance, Peter’s full name was Simon Peter and Paul’s full name was Saul Paul. It is believed that Bartholomew’s other name was “Nathanael.” If so, he first met Jesus in a mysterious fashion. In John 1:43–46, the disciple Philip invites Nathanael Bartholomew to see the Messiah from Nazareth who was prophesied in the Law and the Prophets. Nathanael hesitated, asking, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” When Jesus met Nathanael, Jesus noted that Nathanael was a pure Israelite. Nathanael asked Jesus how he knew him. Jesus said that he had heard Nathanael praying under a tree. This indicates the divine power of Jesus as he heard Nathanael pray even though no one was physically with Nathanael. Tradition holds that Nathanael Bartholomew took the gospel to India and possibly as far as Armenia. He either died by crucifixion or drowning.
Nathanael Bartholomew’s encounter with Jesus in John 1:43–46 should remind us that no matter what we face or where we go, the presence of God is with us. At times, we may seem like our prayers are nothing more than empty words. Yet, Bartholomew’s encounter with Jesus reminds us that God is an ever-present friend who is with us and working for us in ways that we cannot imagine. Always and continually pray to God. Pray to God when you feel like it and pray to God when you do not. Rather than being empty words, your prayers to God are a direct line with omnipotent Power. As Jesus reminds us, “all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).