Some are living on water and juice. Others are sacrificing just one favorite food, or something else entirely, such as television.
No matter what they chose, it was their response to a plea to Christians by Pat Robertson and other religious leaders: Fast and pray for 40 days for a spiritual revival in the United States.The goal? Sacrifice by 2 million Christians, beginning March 1.
Robertson is honorary co-chairman of "PrayUSA!'98," a prayer-and-fasting campaign developed by Mission America, a Minneapolis-based coalition that promotes evangelism.
The need for revival, organizers say, stems from the country's decaying moral condition.
In an interview, Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, included himself among religious leaders who sense "a moral crisis in our nation that could lead to some disastrous things, such as this gulf war."
Citing abortion, drug abuse, unwed mothers, broken marriages and a high prison population, he said, "We lead the world in almost every pathology you could imagine." And that he attributed to "a general deterioration of the family structure and the basic civility of our population."
The fast aims to help Christians eliminate distractions, refocus on God and take time to pray.
Donna Strout, a network spokeswoman who has given up television and her evening meal, relied on the Bible, identifying fasts and prayer as acts of humility.
Fasting "gets our own hearts right with God to receive what direction he may have for us as individuals and as the body of Christ," added Robertson, who is on a liquid diet.
The fast roughly coincides with Lent, the period of penance before Easter that mirrors Jesus' 40-day fast in the desert. It will end April 9, the day before Good Friday.
Pray!USA'98 continues a nationwide fasting and prayer movement begun in 1994 by Bill and Vonette Bright, who join Robertson as this year's honorary co-chairmen.
The Brights founded Campus Crusade for Christ, an interdenominational, evangelical organization based in Orlando, Fla. Its 50 ministries include Athletes in Action and Campus Ministry. Each fall, they organize three-day Fasting & Prayer gatherings.
"We really believe that our nation needs prayer," said Randy Murphy, national coordinator for Fasting & Prayer. "Fasting is a way of denying the self and drawing near to God. We want to seek his face, seek intimacy with him. It's to get our spiritual muscles in tune."
This year, CBN joined Campus Crusade for Christ by encouraging a fast by its staff of 900 and by viewers of Robertson's "The 700 Club."
The Rev. Joel Palser, spiritual life director for CBN, cited suggestions for fasts from Elmer Town's book, "Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough," which describes nine Biblical fasts.
For example, the Daniel Fast targets healing and a healthier life; the Ezra Fast encourages the Holy Spirit to help solve problems, and the Widow's Fast helps meet humanitarian needs.
Fasting, Palser said, should not interfere with health. If giving up solid foods is a problem, he suggested finding an alternative or fast a few times a week rather than the full 40 days.
"For a media hound, it could be turning off their TV," he said, adding: "The point is not just abstaining but tuning out. It's like tuning out the background noise. Some of that background noise may be our own pride, our own sin within the Christian community."
The fast also coincides with CBN's international evangelism campaign, WorldReach. In addition to praying for the United States, Robertson said he also will be praying for countries in Asia. The world, he said, is in the midst of a spiritual revival, with unprecedented evangelism.
He cited the CBN television blitz last December in Nigeria where, according to follow-up surveys, 9.2 million people professed faith in Christ for the first time, and 8.8 million vowed to rededicate their lives to Christ.