Photo: Agus Munoraharjo, reused under CC license.

1. You’re actively looking for your item of luggage. It’s not like waiting for, say, Christmas or the bus. Once you see the conveyor belt moving, your eyes will be searching for your item of luggage. In the same way, when I’m praying, I am in “expectant waiting”. I’m actively listening for God, looking out for what he has to tell me.

2. You know it’s going to come.
You are right to expect its arrival. And that changes the dynamics of waiting – it turns it from a dreadful chore into joyful and excited anticipation.
(Well, it does for prayer. Not too sure about waiting for luggage :-P)

3. You can’t increase (or decrease) the speed of the conveyor.
Ultimately, “expectant waiting” is waiting. I could tell the Holy Spirit to hurry up, mind. And that prayer might work. But in prayer, and in listening, I have to recognise that I’m not setting the agenda. That I am not praying in order to be holy and show myself up for hearing from God; and that God .

4. If you miss it the first time around, it’s no big deal. It can go round the conveyor belt again.
In the same way, it’s never too late to start praying. Or to start listening. Or to start it all again.

5. Luggage comes in different shapes and sizes – but it’s always luggage! Different people will recognise the Holy Spirit in their own way. Judging people because of the way they respond to God, or because of the  way they worship, is not only arrogant – it’s also fundamentally misguided.

6. Even though others may not recognise your luggage, you know for sure when it comes that it is yours. But, if pressed for an explanation as to how you know it’s what you were waiting for, you will find it hard to explain.
The same goes with what comes from God – there is a distinct recognisability of what comes from God in prayer.
That said, a child may not go and pick up their parents’ suitcase unless prompted to do so; and on occasion, further scrutiny is appropriate.

7. You don’t randomly look for your luggage everywhere in the airport. But if you see it sitting in an unexpected place, you still know it as your luggage.
In the same way, I’m not in contemplative prayer 24/7. And I’m (mostly) actively seeking God when in prayer. But at the same time, God may talk to me at other times, and in other ways. In those cases, I (hopefully!) will recognise God’s word and  pick up my luggage where I find it! Although it has to be said, in those cases, I would very carefully check that it was mine…

8. You have a baggage reclaim tag. You know, just in case it gets lost.
We have a promise. And a trace of that promise. That means that if things go wrong, for whatever reason, and I don’t hear from God straight away, I need not worry.

9. You didn’t get your luggage onto the conveyor belt. But you’re the one who has to pick it up.
In the same way: we have teachers whom we can trust to direct us to the right conveyor belt. We have encounters along our life story that get our faith from one place to the next. And ultimately, it’s God who sends us his messages – and not just us.
If I don’t listen, then I won’t hear God’s word. If I don’t respond to it, the transformative power of that word won’t work in my life, and I won’t grow. Just spotting my item of luggage and leaving it on the conveyor belt would be a bit stupid, wouldn’t it?

10. If you skip that part of your journey (assuming you had checked in some luggage) you won’t be able to go through your day quite as easily.
And feel quite foolish too, probably.
In the same way, contemplative prayer sustains us and helps us in our daily lives.