In the interest of stirring up a good conversation across Christian dividing lines, Mark asked in last month's Christian Reconciliation Carnival: "Why not pray to saints?" I'm working on the assumption that the type of prayer to the saint is simply asking for that saint to pray for us rather than anything more objectionable.
There are two kinds of "Why not's" that I see from time to time. "Why not love your neighbor?" has a certain kind of "why not", as does "Why not love your enemy?" The same kind of strong "Why not" is found in "Why not pray for those who persecute you?" and "Why not bless those who curse you?" In all these questions, "Why not" carries the idea that if someone is neglecting these things, that person would be in the wrong for such an oversight. These are things we have been taught to do, things which are part of the original tradition of the church: the teachings handed down from Christ and his apostles. These are teachings we have by both command and by example. "Why not?" carries a lot of weight in circumstances like that.
There is another kind of why not. "Why not put up a Christmas tree?" "Why not light candles on an advent wreath?" "Why not use a guitar in church?" This kind of "why not" says, "This is harmless; what reason could there possibly be for not doing it? Isn't wanting to do the thing enough reason for doing it since it's harmless?"
I think that, at best, "Why not pray to saints" could fall into the second category of "Why not?" When it comes to praying to the saints, we were not taught by Christ or is apostles to pray to saints who have left this world; it is not part of the original tradition which we have by the authority of Christ. It is a later human addition, perhaps more like Christmas trees or advent wreaths.
The usual reason given for praying to the saints is something like this: "Don't you ask other Christians to pray for you?", on the assumption that asking for (say) Mary's prayers is roughly the same as asking for the prayers of the person next to me in the pew. On those occasions when I ask someone to pray for me, I usually want the certainty of knowing that the other person did in fact hear . I also usually seek out someone that I know personally. I don't have some reason why it is a horrible thing to ask for the prayers of one of the faithful departed and hope that they may in fact hear you and pray for you; I would only say that the practice leans on speculation and supposition rather than the solid basis of those things we have been taught by Christ and his apostles. It is difficult to see how something that is not grounded in Christ and his apostles could ever be more than optional. Without raising any fuss against those who ask for prayers from saints who have left this world, I don't have any desire to do so. Speaking for myself, I'll pass.