Twenty odd years ago, a friend of mine would joke he spent 8 hours a day in the Word. When the statement drew response or perhaps someone was suckered-in to momentary belief, Tim would answer with a gleeful grin that he named his bed, "The Word." The sign hung over his bed, if we wanted to come see.
craig v. said...
"I believe I would give more legitimacy to regular (daily) Bible reading. I agree that there are abuses and misunderstandings. Perhaps an analogy would help clarify my view. I'm married and have a relationship with my wife. We are together much of the day, but that doesn't mean I'm really listening to her. I suffer from the male ability to look and sound like I'm with her even when I'm not. If our communication begins to decay, it would make sense for us to agree to a regular time together where we focus on one another. Sadly, I might still hear her words and not really listen, but that doesn't mean the discipline of a regular meeting is a bad idea. It only means I can use it poorly. Given how easily distracted we are, it's not a huge stretch for me to see (at least of myself) that even though God is in me through Christ in the presence of the Holy Spirit, I'm still quite capable of not listening. A daily time in His Word, where He speaks and I focus on listening, makes sense to me."
craig v., (conversing not challenging) I certainly understand both your discipline and the rationale for it. By "legitimacy" I wonder if you are making a personal statement or if you intend an application across the board for believers. Could I not make a similar statement to support what I have described for myself? I would need to state as you do, "I agree that there are abuses and misunderstandings." But with that qualifier, I uphold a traditional view that I have adopted as my own.
Of course, in my case I am actually upholding a variant view from the traditional. Or am I? Consider the early Christians largely did not read and the letters, which would later be canonized, were circulated by slow travel overland and often not in the hands of the ones who could read. (At least early on and the Torah excepted.) As a result, a majority of believers would describe a daily guiding from the Holy Spirit as their spiritual sustenance and account hearing the written Word as a secondary experience. In this situation the tables would be reversed, and I would hold the "traditional' or common view and you would be seeking to establish the legitimacy of the variant view. Despite their lack of daily reading, their faith stunned the population around them, extant writings from non-believers of the day giving such testimony.
I recognize the counter-point is I have the Bible and do read, so I have a responsibility to utilize both. Let's mush through this a bit. I have three thoughts. First, I have been very careful to NOT suggest someone would waste their efforts in daily Bible reading. It is a very valuable practice, clearly and certainly. Especially when, as you describe in the analogy, someone is in the active maintenance of the most valuable relationship and practicing daily reading to listen attentively to the One speaking through the Word.
My second thought--thinking about responsibility in maintenance of our relationship with God. Consider in comparison the following two experiences:
A. A modern American Christian (Mac for short) with a blue or white collar job rises with enough time carved out each morning to spend twenty minutes in a quiet time: reading the Bible for ten and praying for ten. Within the fellowship in which Mac participates, this has been presented as the needed minimum for daily devotionals regardless of the time of day it is practiced. The stated goal from his pastor's point of view is thirty minutes or more. Mac being a relatively young but devoted believer is seeking to establish the minimum in his life. He has determined it must be a morning routine to ensure it occurs, as having skipped a time or two, his busy days made later times impossible; and at the end of the day, he was frustrated with himself for failing to meet with God that day. So! Mornings are a must.
MAC is growing in his excitement for God. He is involved in a weekly meeting with three accountability partners, signed up for a men's retreat next month and currently studying much of the Bible through the workbook of Experiencing God by Blackaby. Some mornings he actually spends thirty minutes in his study and follows with prayer while commuting. He feels his relationship with his wife is improving, and he is growing spiritually. Through the workday God comes to mind occasionally, but Mac experiences blocks in the day, hours even, where his focus and thoughts are on the job before him. Mac wants to think about God more often, even pray throughout the day. His experience to this point in his walk is that work grabs his thinking and doesn't let go. He wonders if praying without ceasing is possible in the modern world, knowing he fails that maxim miserably. Mac will end his day reading a scripture with his wife, then they have a prayer together and a bit of reflection shared about God. Mac on his pillow now, quietly speaks to God about his day before sleep comes. Does this man "walk" with God? Who could tell him he does not or that his daily Bible reading is not legitimate?
Total time in a day when Mac "listens" (assuming Mac is not playing the male game of pretending to listen) to God, as you set up in the analogy of dedicated time with the wife? Counting his study, prayer while commuting, sporadic times of acknowledging God through the hours of work and his ending exchanges with his wife and with God in the solace before sleep equals... does it matter? Rather, is he at peace in his knowing God and satisfied he has fulfilled his responsibility before God?
B. Mac's brother, rises daily and spends an unmeasured amount of time meditating on God, usually 15 minutes. Some mornings, the meditation leads to a Bible inquiry or the readings from Christian authors who are reflecting over the scriptures and represent the Christian walk across centuries. The reading of the Bible (or in the context of a Christian author) is just a verse, but it turns into a check on the Greek meaning of a word. Throughout the day, Mac's brother considers the Greek usage and analyzes the meaning in the context of several different circumstances in his life. While commuting or walking to the water cooler at the office but in all time not devoted to focused work, this man continues his reflection on the meaning and is waiting on God for illumination or inspiration over the word/verse in question. Throughout the day, as well, in almost every exchange with a co-worker, this man is in quiet prayer over the conversation, over the question/ professional problem involved, or the spiritual state of the other human. After he's home and the day's duties ebb such that he feels his time is his own, the man's interest is stirred and he spends thirty minutes more with a lexicon and Bible comparing with other verses where the same word is used and records notes.
Or more often during the morning meditation a memorized scripture comes to mind. Mac's brother reflects on the scripture several minutes without needing to open the Bible, the Bible is open in his heart, and he feels no complusion to open the material Bible. His day, however follows a pattern similar to that described above of waiting on God for illumination/inspiration and holding many moments spent with others before the Presence of God in his heart, a talk/prayer. Regardless of whether or not the literal earthly Bible is opened for reading in the morning, Mac's brother devotes an almost continuing exchange with God on a daily basis, sometimes listening, sometimes talking, sometimes worshiping with singing running through his head or joyfully out loud in the privacy of the car, but always, always in awareness and dependence on God's Presence. A week may go by before the literal Bible is opened once again, however, the fellowship with God is daily and nearly unending.
I know the comparison is artificial. However, within the confines of the stated construct, is Mac or his brother in need of correction in his approach to walking with God? I think it must be left to an individual how the responsibility acknowledged as his or hers before God is lived out in seeking Him. Is time spent in daily reading really the issue? Does remembering a scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit and being stimulated by it less legitimate than opening and viewing the printed word? I think most would agree it is not.
It seems to me your concern, and that of most others, is the issue of maintenance of the relationship.
With that in mind, my final thought: Turn the spending time with the wife analogy around just a bit. The husband decides that his wife needs to know where he stands without doubt on a few things. The primary understanding he desires his wife always remember is he loves her unconditionally, that she might be confident in returning love to him and have that love bring order to her feelings toward others. These thoughts he writes to her that she may always know and return to the letters whenever she may choose for assurance or clarity. He writes repeatedly until he has a collection of letters, which he one day gives her as a gift. She is thrilled. Only now, every day when they join for dinner and he expects to talk, she instead pulls out the letters. She is concerned that she dutifully maintain her commitment to his stated love and constantly rereads the letters before him and makes comments to him about the contents. She is consumed with maintenance of the relationship in this manner but never ever again searches him out with real time conversation or even her eyes to connect with him as a person. For her, reading the letters in front of him is the source and practice of all communication with him.