Prayers Rendered for Caesar?
When Jesus said, “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar and unto to God that which is God’s,” he was holding a denarius, a Roman coin, and stamped on it was the image of Augustus Caesar. Prior to Augustus, Roman coinage usually had the image of one of the gods, but Augustus in a real act of “humility” decided one day that he was godlike and therefore he put his own image on the coin.
Typically, the sermon, on Sundays when this passage is read from one of the synoptic gospel readings, reiterates the principle of separation of church and state or the concept that we should obey the established government but does it include prayers rendered for Caesar? In my church, several times a year the general prayer is given which includes petitions for the President and the Congress of the United States and all those in authority for whom we ask that they be replenished with thy grace.
The conclusion to 1st Clement contains a series of petitions for the “rulers and governors upon the earth.” Clement, at the beginning of the letter, warned the Corinthians that they risk eternal damnation if they fail to comply with the contents of this letter. This series of petitions for the “rulers and governors upon the earth” has been an enigma to all who have studied this prayer.
However, in this instance, this is not really a prayer for “rulers and governors upon the earth”, but a reminder to the Corinthians, that Clement speaks for the established authorities in the church, just as Romans 13:1-7 reminds Christians that they need to submit to the established governmental authorities. This, I suggest is the purpose of the prayer in 1st Clement. This is consistent with the analysis of prayer by G.B. Caird. He includes prayer in the category of “cohesive language” whose function it is to establish rapport, to create a sense of mutual trust and common ethos.” The repeated use of cohesive language is part of the rhetorical strategy of 1st Clement to obtain compliance with the contents of the letter.