I saw that a couple of people landed on my blog today by running searches on who we should pray to (Father, Son, or Holy Spirit?). Matthew Crowe emailed me a couple of weeks ago looking for my thoughts on this very subject. Here’s what I said to him:
My thought is that the standard is prayer to the Father in Jesus’ name and in the power of the Spirit. Can we deviate from the standard? Sure. Jesus is as much God as the Father is. In John 14:14 he said “If you ask ME anything in MY name I will do it” (assuming that the variant adopted in the NA27 is correct). I think that Jesus instructed us to pray as he prayed, i.e., to the Father, but I don’t think he’s opposed to us praying directly to him. As you noted, Stephen in Acts 7 (and I’d add the apostles in Acts 1) pray directly to Jesus and so does Paul. What’s striking to me is just how widespread prayer to Jesus was in the first few decades of Christianity. For example, in 1 Corinthians 1:2 Paul talks about the saints who “in every place CALL UPON THE NAME of our Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. Rom. 10:13). This is language taken up from the OT cultic setting where the name of LORD was used in prayer when offering sacrifice (see e.g., 1 Chron. 16:8; Ps. 116:13; Zeph. 3:9). The “maranatha” prayer in 1 Corinthians 16:22 is an even stronger witness to just how early prayer was offered to Jesus. This was something taken over from Aramaic speaking believers and Paul’s writing this epistle to Gentile converts in the early- to mid-50s. So I’ve said all this to say that my preference is to pray to the Father but it seems that early on prayers to the Son were widespread. This tells me that either is appropriate but that I like to pray like Jesus prayed.
I’d add that we certainly can pray to the Holy Spirit as well, and trust me, Charismatic/Pentecostals do it all the time, but my personal practice is the generally pray to the Father through the Son in the Spirit. Prayer is Trinitarian in shape and my understanding of the Trinitarian taxis (i.e., Father eternally begets & spirates, the Son is begotten by eternal generation, the Spirit proceeds by eternal procession) also influences the way I pray. But I wouldn’t be dogmatic about this because if a Christian wants to pray to a specific Person of the Trinity then they’re free to do so. No matter what they’d be praying to God.