This is not a new problem. For thousands of years, across many continents, government leaders have issued the warning, "Do not pray, or else..." What should we do in such a situation?
According to the Bible, the answer is: Pray anyway.
One of the clearest examples took place about 2,500 years ago in Babylon.
Daniel was a devout Jewish man, exiled in Babylon. He had favor with the King, Darius the Mede, and was made a governor. Several other leaders were jealous of Daniel's success and sought to get rid of him by tricking King Darius to make a decree outlawing prayer.
What did Daniel do? He prayed anyway. Three times a day, everyday!
So they answered and said before the king, “That Daniel, who is one of the captives from Judah, does not show due regard for you, O king, or for the decree that you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.” Daniel 6:13
King Darius was devastated, but stuck. He had decreed that anyone caught praying would be thrown into a den of lions.
Daniel's choice lead King Darius to pray too...
The King had faith that Daniel's God would save him from the lions. He even went home after Daniel was cast into the den and fasted for Daniel to be delivered. It seems that God used an ungodly law to show His glory and goodness to the King of the whole land!
What was God's response to all of this?
God sent an angel to shut the lions' mouths, and both Daniel and the King praised God as a result!
The king spoke, saying to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?”
21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you.” Daniel 6:20-22
There are countless other examples throughout history of severe persecution against God's people for their choice to "pray anyway." And many of the stories even end in the deaths of those faithful men and women of prayer. But the ripple effects through all of history of God being glorified in the presence of the persecuted are unfathomable!
So, it may not always be safe to "pray anyway," but we have a powerful promise: God will be with us.