Twenty years is a long time. That’s how long Rebecca and Isaac remained childless.

According to the Midrash, Rebecca was physically unable to bear children. It would take a literal miracle to do so. This is why Isaac and Rebecca pleaded to G‑d so often and with such great intensity. Isaac would stand in one corner praying, and Rebecca would stand in the other, not giving up until finally, their prayers were answered.

Soon after they were blessed with children, Isaac and his family relocate to Gerar, where he farms the land and digs wells. He reopens the wells of Abraham and digs his own. He gives the wells names and struggles to retain control over them.

Praying and well-digging have much in common. For both, one needs the qualities that Isaac epitomized: restraint, discipline, faith and introspectiveness.

The word used to describe Isaac’s intense pleading with G‑d is vayeatar. The Talmud (Yevamot 64a) associates this word with a pitchfork. The pitchfork pushes into the ground and overturns the grain. So, too, the prayers of the righteous overturn negative decrees.

The Hebrew word usually associated with praying is lehitpallel. It has the same root as to judge and to join together.

The reflexive form is used, which signifies that a person who is praying is meant to judge himself and acquire a new perspective, while strengthening his bonds with G‑d.

To pray means to step out of the many dichotomies and fragmentations of our lives. To gain a true judgment about ourselves, our relationship to G‑d and our world. To struggle to control our distracting thoughts and our inner turmoil.

To pray means to dig deep within ourselves. To clear away dirt, rocks and debris. To have faith that eventually, we will find water. Deep down beyond our self-centered ego lies the fresh flowing waters of our Divine core. Prayer helps us become reunited with that part of our selves.

To pray means to discover a fresh perspective about who we are and our reality. The person who begins prayers should be very different from the person who concludes them. You began as someone ensnared in your own self-centered reality, feeling arrogant and entitled. By digging deep into your emotional and spiritual self, you emerge as a more humble individual, aware of and grateful for all the good G‑d has given.

In fact, perhaps this is how prayer actually effects change. The person who starts praying may not merit what he or she desires. But the newly transformed, far more spiritual individual concluding prayers may be worthy of what he or she seeks—and use it to further spiritual growth.

In this week’s portion, Isaac teaches us that to pray is to dig.

This week, let’s get out our pitchforks and dig. Let’s dig deeply.