It's a sign that the Senate is serious about cutting its budget when Sen. Mark O. Hatfield (R-Ore.), one of the leading Christian laymen in Congress, tries to save money by eliminating the printing of the Senate chaplain's prayers.

Hatfield did not prevail on that proposal yesterday, but the Senate Rules Committee did meet its goal of cutting overall Senate expenses 10 percent by trimming $303,000 that committee chairmen had not give up voluntarily last week.

The chairmen of four committees -- Armed Services, Commerce, Finance and Aging -- had refused to cut a penny from last year's appropriations.

By the end of the markup session, Senate expenses had been cut from last year's $46.3 million to $41.6 million, and the number of committee employes had been reduced from 1,310 to 1,134.

Sen. Wendell H. Ford (D-Ky.), the ranking minority member, convinced Hatfield to postpone action on his plan to save $21,222 by eliminating printing of the chaplain's prayers.

"I'd prefer to start in some other area," Ford said.

"I know this is the wrong subject," said Hatfield, "but a lot of this printing ends up as a solid waste problem."