What does God want from us? This has been one of the most fundamental questions that people have asked for all of human existence. The answer to this question should be reflected in what people offer to God in their religious practices. However, the extreme diversity of beliefs and practices within the various religions of the world and even among the branches of Christianity indicates that people have had a hard time getting a grip on what God really wants.
The Protestant view of what God wants, as reflected in their worship and services, may be the closest to the modern lifestyle. God apparently wants all His people to sing together, and He doesn’t seem to have a particular musical taste, with musical styles ranging from 19th century hymns to country western or even rock. God seems interested in the position of the body— a major aspect of worship involves changing position, from sitting to standing, kneeling, or swaying with hands raised. God is interested in what we do with our money— passing a plate or bag around to collect money is a part of most Protestant worship services. It would seem that God is very interested in people having religious information; the sermon is the central focus of most Protestant services and usually consists of an exposition or an application of a Bible passage or theme.
A study of Roman Catholic worship would imply that God has a preference for organ music and likes singing to be done by a trained choir. He likes art and particularly paintings and statues of holy people who lived in the past, and He wants His people to bow down and kiss these artistic depictions. He likes hearing a professional church leader (priest) recite a set text (liturgy) which also includes a number of symbolically significant actions. God likes all of his people to recite short standard prayers that are repeated many times. God seems to be ambivalent about sex and marriage. On the one hand, he wants the average person to get married and have sexual relations without birth control to insure a large number of children. On the other hand, people who are especially close to God or who do His work should not marry or have sexual relations. God wants a hierarchical system so that people will go through the proper channels in receiving His blessings (confession, penance and the other sacraments). God is more likely to grant petitions if people go through His special friends (saints) or His mother.
The Orthodox system of worship seems to show that God has a real preference for the Byzantine era— He prefers Byzantine music, Byzantine art and a Byzantine liturgy. In general He does not want things to change from how they have been done in the past. God wants professionals to do almost all of the singing and rituals while the common people watch and listen to them. He wants His priests to dress up like kings when they perform the liturgy and in robes of mourning the rest of the time. He wants people to honor Him and His special friends by lighting candles and taking long trips to visit churches where their remains are kept. God wants people to forgo their favorite foods, sometimes for long periods, before they participate in His important ceremonies or holidays. His preferred lifestyle for men is to live in an all male compound (monastery), spending most of the time in prayer and attending liturgies.
Surprisingly, many of the above mentioned religious practices have little or no basis in the example or teaching of the Bible, which is supposed to be the most authoritative guide for all Christian denominations.
According to the Bible, what God really wants is to have a close personal friendship with us now and for all eternity (John 15:15). He wants us to let Him help us get rid of sin, because it impedes our relationship with Him and causes us to hurt others (Isaiah 59:2). When we get together to worship He wants everyone to participate together, using special talents and skills that He has given, in order to help each other know God better and love Him more (1 Corinthians 14:26). He wants people to carefully study His word and apply its teachings to their lives (2 Timothy 3:16,17). He wants people to be full of love for each other as a demonstration of His love (John 13:34,35). He wants His people to reach out to the most vulnerable members of society to offer real help (James 1:27). He especially wants people who know Him to tell other people about Him so they can know Him too (Matthew 28:19,20).